A guide for businesses in New Brunswick says operational plans will be required for those looking to reopen in the next phase of the province’s recovery plan amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The guide is being circulated by the Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton chambers of commerce.
It gives a sneak peek into what the province’s “new normal” could look like as New Brunswick moves forward with its recovery plan, and the guide was created using available information from public health officials and WorkSafeNB.
“In order for businesses to reopen, there’s a lot more to it than flipping a switch, and one of the challenges that we were hearing from businesses is they just weren’t certain what to do to get ready,” said Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
“We decided to prepare a guidance document that would help prepare businesses for opening.”
Next phase could come as early as Friday
On Wednesday, Premier Blaine Higgs promised more details on the second phase of the province’s recovery plan by the end of the week and told businesses to begin preparing plans for how they can reopen safely.
“I’ve been encouraging businesses for weeks to prepare for the new normal and reopening. We are just days away from announcing that, in fact, it will be this week,” Higgs said at Wednesday’s public health briefing.
When the province initially released its recovery plan on April 24, the second phase was slated to begin two to four weeks after the first, which would peg Friday as the earliest possible day for Phase 2 to begin.
The second phase could include the resumption of elective surgeries and allow daycares, offices, retail businesses and restaurants to open.
New Brunswick saw its streak of 16 straight days without a new case of COVID-19 snapped on Tuesday and announced new cases on consecutive days, but those new cases are not expected to impact the timing of the next phase of the recovery plan.
In order to begin reintroducing restrictions, the province would have to see three unconnected community cases over a period of six days.
‘Position to be ready’
With time running out for businesses to make preparations, Ross said the chambers wanted to help ensure they weren’t caught off guard when details are announced by the province.
“We felt at the time we decided to do it that opening would be imminent and we didn’t want people to be caught unaware or told they could open and not have them be in a position to be ready,” she said.
The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce has also launched a directory to help connect businesses with suppliers of personal protective equipment and what it is calling BPE, or business preparedness equipment.
Operational plans mandatory
Whenever the second phase does come, operational plans “outlining how daily operations will be managed to meet the additional measures outlined by the government of New Brunswick” will be mandatory for all businesses that reopen.
Temperature checks will also be required for workplaces where physical distancing is not possible.
“Active screening must include temperature checks of all persons, provided a non-contact thermometer (e.g. infrared) is available,” the document reads.
“Disposable thermometers may be used provided a proper procedure to maintain a non-contact temperature check is implemented.”
Signage detailing things like handwashing, self-monitoring and physical distancing “should be placed at a minimum at any common entrance and where people tend to congregate.”
Businesses are also being advised to erect plexiglass barriers at high-contact points like cash registers, a measure that has already been adopted by grocery stores and ANBL locations throughout the province.
Common areas will have to be disinfected at least twice daily and items like doorknobs, countertops and other things that are frequently touched and interacted with will need to be cleaned even more frequently.
Handwashing facilities will have to be provided where possible, with hand sanitizer available if not.
Screening protocols will need to be developed that will bar staff or patrons should they be deemed a potential risk to public health.
“Businesses and organizations should advise that staff and patrons who are either symptomatic and/or have been advised by public health to self-isolate should remain home and not enter the premises. Operators should actively pre-screen staff before the beginning of each shift,” the guide says.
People who develop COVID-19 symptoms during a shift are to be sent home immediately.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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