In evaluating the schedule for reopening business sectors, we would recommend that manufacturing, all retail, low density office work, construction, sole proprietors and small businesses, and low density businesses and activities restart first based on their lower inherent risks to customers and employees and the ability of those businesses to mitigate those risks. Higher risk business sectors include entertainment venues, adult day care services, high density businesses, and mass transit, which should be phased in over time based on regional infection rates, occupancy restrictions, and safety protocols.
Governor Cuomos shutdown of the economy was based on an analysis of which businesses were essential for providing food, essential goods and services, and maintaining public health. The timeline and a summary of his Executive Orders are attached. In a sense, the restart of the economy should be in reverse of the initial shut-down. Our more detailed analysis is set forth below.
Lower Risk Business Sectors
Business sectors with lower risk factors and the ability to mitigate those risks include the following:
- Manufacturing. Almost all manufacturing plants can safely reopen consistent with CDC and OSHA requirements. Many essential manufacturing facilities have remained open with minimal demonstrated adverse effects, except for a few industry segments (such as meat packing) where employees worked in very close quarters. Manufacturers without inherently close working quarters should be allowed to reopen. Local manufacturers who employ few people from outside the county should be allowed to reopen even if the level of infection is higher in other counties within the region.
It is important to recognize that these manufacturers have a strong desire to protect their employees health and have a strong financial incentive to minimize their legal liability, sick leave, and health insurance claims. The specific safety procedures and protocols should be developed by each manufacturer consistent with CDC and OSHA standards, recognizing the unique production line issues, equipment, safe operating procedures, and other issues that are unique to each manufacturer. These safety protocols could include monitoring employee health through daily temperature checks, providing appropriate protective equipment (such as masks and gloves, etc), reducing the number of production employees per shift where practical, staggering lunch breaks and other break times to reduce employee congestion, limiting access by third parties to the production floor, and implementing social distancing where practical.
- Retail Stores. Retail stores can safely reopen by installing plastic shields in front of cashiers, routinely disinfecting all common areas, and requiring face masks until infection rates are low. Walmart, Home Depot, Office Max, and many other stores and all the grocery stores have remained open through the crisis; all the smaller retail stores can safely open in all lower risk regions.
- Low Density Office Workers. All office workers in low density work sites can safely return to work by practicing social distancing and other safety protocols. Offices should be encouraged to maximize off-site at-home work where practical, routinely disinfect all common areas, and enforce social distancing. Most governmental operations (DMVs, Courts, Social services, Mental Health Services, etc) should be able to resume with appropriate safety protocols, including mandated social distancing and, when appropriate based on the regions level of risk, required use of masks by customers and employees.
- Construction. By its nature, most construction activity is low density and should be allowed to reopen, especially outdoor construction, roofing contractors, exterior painting, window cleaning, landscaping, lawncare, pool cleaning, and other low-density construction and maintenance activities.
- Sole Proprietors/Small Businesses. Sole proprietors and small business that employ relative few people should be allowed to reopen as soon as possible, consistent with CDC guidelines that require social distancing and other protective measures.
- Low Density Businesses. Golf courses, marinas, personal care services, barber shops, hair salons, real estate brokers, attorneys, accountants, architects, other professionals and businesses which can control the number and density of customers should be allowed to reopen, especially in low risk regions. Masks for customers and employees may be appropriate, depending on the risk in the region.
- Low Density Activities. Outdoor parks, hiking trails, ATV trails, and similar low-density activities should be allowed to resume, consistent with social distancing guidelines.
Higher Risk Business Sectors
- Entertainment. Entertainment venues, bars and restaurants, sporting events, theaters, casinos, and other entertainment venues that inherently cater to larger groups of people can be phased in as regional risk factors improve, much like the original shutdown process in reverse:
- Phase 1- Up to 50 people with occupancy limits (50%, 75%, then 100% occupancy),
- Phase 2- Up to 100 people with occupancy limits (50%, 75%, then 100% occupancy),
- Phase 3- Up to 250 people with occupancy limits (50%, 75%, then 100% occupancy),
- Phase 4- Up to 500 people with occupancy limits (50%, 75%, then 100% occupancy)
- Phase 5- More than 500 people with occupancy limits (50%, 75%, then 100% occupancy)
- Adult Day Care Senior Centers. Adult Day Care, senior centers and related transportation and programing should be allowed to reopen in strict compliance with CDC safety protocols, including masks and social distancing, until the region has very low risk factors.
- Higher Density Businesses. Some office settings, businesses, and manufacturers are inherently high density, including the necessity to use a common elevator, meeting areas, or production lines. These businesses should be allowed to reopen only in strict compliance with CDC safety protocols, including masks and other safety protocols, until the region has very low risk factors.
- Mass Transit. The NFTA, airports, and other mass transit should require passengers to wear masks as a condition of transport until regional risk factors are low, reflecting the inherent danger involved in being in close contact with many others.
Although church services, weddings, and other religious activities can have higher inherent risks because of the density of their activities, these activities enjoy special Constitutional protections under the First Amendment. Accordingly, these activities should be allowed as soon as possible, with the requirement that they maximize social distancing to the extent practical (such as using every other pew), encourage members to participate through social media and live-streaming, and implement reasonable safety protocols such as enhanced disinfecting, masks, and similar protocols.
We intentionally did not give specific health or safety protocols for each business sector because these protocols should be business specific based on CDC and OSHA guidelines. Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel has reached out to a number business sectors for their ideas on best practices, and will forward those comments separately. In the meantime, we have attached a few examples that demonstrate the thoughtfulness of those responses.
We hope these comments are helpful. It is critical that we move as quickly and as thoughtfully as possible to safely restart our economy.
Governor Cuomos Economic Shutdown Timeline:
- March 12, 2020. EO 202.1
- Any gathering of over 500 people. March 12, 2020, EO 202.1
- Any gathering less than 500 people limited to 50%.
- March 16, 2020, EO 202.3
- All gyms and movie theaters.
- All casinos and gambling facilities.
- All bars and restaurants.
- Any gathering of more than 50 people.
- March 16, 2020, EO 202.4
- All school districts.
- 50% reduction for all non-essential government workers.
- March 18, 2020. EO 202.5
- All places of entertainment.
- All mall indoor common areas.
- All adult daycare centers.
- March 18, 2020, EO 202.6
- 50% reduction in non-essential workforce for all businesses and not-for-profits.
- Defines essential businesses.
- March 18, 2020, EO 202.7
- All personal care services, such as barber, hair salons, etc.
- 75% workforce reduction in nonessential employees.
- March 20, 2020, EO 202.8
- 100% workforce reduction for nonessential employees.
- March 23, 2020, EO 202.10
- Non-essential gatherings of any size
- March 30, 2020, EO 202.13
- Only certain construction deemed essential.