America Is Reopening: Here's What Employers Need to Know

Computer on Table Working From Home

Please visit our COVID-19 resources page with more information for business owners and employees.

The president recently released guidelines for reopening the United States.

For those who are ready to get back in the office, there’s a light at the end of the COVID tunnel! The Opening Up America Again guidelines include a three-phase plan with gating criteria to help states ease back into “business as usual.” 

It’s worth noting that the road back to “business as usual” might not be a linear one. Your community may fly through phases and then have a setback. If we’ve learned anything from the last few months, it’s that flexibility and adaptability are key to maintaining some sanity during a pandemic. We have to give ourselves and each other a little extra grace while we learn to navigate the next normal.

This phased approach intends to minimize the risk of a resurgence of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable populations. These guidelines will be implemented on a state/county basis, so you’ll need to stay up to date with your governor or mayor’s guidance for your area. 

Gating Criteria 

Getting back to normal depends on meeting the gating criteria. The gating criteria are based on a two-week window of time in which there is:

  • A downward trend of flu-like and COVID-like cases reported
  • A decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases documented or percent of positive tests out of the total number of tests
  • Hospitals should be able to treat every patient without the help of crisis care and there must be a testing program in place for healthcare workers 

It’s important to note: These guidelines make provisions for state and local leaders to adjust as necessary to accommodate the effects of COVID-19 in their communities.

Phase One: Meet the criteria once

Once the gating criteria have been met, the regional government can enact phase one of the plan to reopen the economy.

At the workplace, employers should encourage teleworking, shut off common areas, minimize nonessential travel, and provide accommodations for vulnerable employees. 

Schools will remain closed, visits to senior facilities and hospitals are prohibited, outpatient elective surgeries may resume, gyms can reopen with strict social distancing and sanitation guidelines, and bars should remain closed. Large venues (such as restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting venues) can open but must follow physical distancing procedures. 

Phase Two: No sign of a rebound and meet criteria a second time

If the gating criteria are still met two weeks after phase one, phase two can be enacted. In this phase, schools, daycares, and camps can reopen, in-patient elective surgeries can now resume, and bars may open with a limited standing-room-only policy. 

The recommendations for employers remain essentially the same, but rather than enforcing strict protocols, employers can enforce more moderate social distancing. Common areas should remain closed and many employees should continue teleworking; however, it’s ok to let a few more people into the office. The magic number for phase two is 50 people in any given space — so try to keep that number in mind when reopening the building.  

Phase Three: No rebound and meet criteria a third time

Assuming the gating criteria continue to be met, regions can move to the final phase, lifting most restrictions. Employers can resume the new “business as usual”, which is pretty much the same but now includes air high fives, a little extra hand sanitizer, and a dash of teleworking!

Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume. Large venues, gyms, and bars can remain open but should still practice physical distancing and sanitation protocols where possible.

Employer Responsibilities 

The guidelines emphasize the importance of implementing appropriate workplace practices, such as social distancing, providing protective equipment, implementing temperature checks, improving sanitation procedures, frequently disinfecting common spaces, and evaluating business travel. 

Employers play an integral role in slowing the spread of the virus by encouraging employees to stay home when they don’t feel well, offering flexible telework options, and showing kindness to your people during this crazy time. Now, more than ever, it’s important to create a culture that is flexible, supportive, and kind. We’ll get through this together!

It’s important to make sure you’re following all local, state, and federal regulations as well as heeding the advice of health experts when creating policies. Need help developing procedures for your workplace? Contact your HR business partner or give us a call at 888.811.5150. Our experts are ready to help! 

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