Image shows three people at a conference table
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, and medical advisers.

Criteria for reopening create opportunity for furniture retailers

The ability of businesses to support social distancing will be one of the key indicators to determine when California can lift its stay-at-home order, Gov. Gavin Newsom said April 14.

That likely also will be true in Oregon and Washington, which are working with California to develop a shared approach, and probably in many other states.

Meanwhile, the White House on April 16 issued new guidance for reopening businesses. But President Donald Trump said decisions would be made by governors.

It should be easier for furniture stores than for many other kinds of businesses to meet social distancing objectives – and it’s important for them to explain why, both to customers and to state and local government leaders. The argument can help them win approval to be among the first businesses to resume operations.

Newsom said that the statewide stay-at-home order that took effect March 19 has helped “flatten the curve” in California. However, shutting most businesses has also impacted the economy, poverty and overall health care in California.

‘Things will look different than before’

“While Californians have stepped up in a big way to flatten the curve and buy us time to prepare to fight the virus, at some point in the future we will need to modify our stay-at-home order,” Newsom said. “As we contemplate reopening parts of our state, we must be guided by science and data, and we must understand that things will look different than before.”

He outlined six indicators, rather than a timeline, that will determine when modifying the stay-at-home order will be possible:

  • The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed.
  • The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19.
  • The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges.
  • The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand.
  • The ability for businesses, schools, and child-care facilities to support physical distancing.
  • The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.

Ohio’s governor looks at similar criteria

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is taking a similar approach. He announced April 16 his intention to start reopening businesses by May 1. But that is conditional.

DeWine said the state would initially implement the plan with companies that demonstrate the ability to safely reopen under guidelines: employees wearing masks, deeper sanitization protocols and more distancing.

“We must get Ohio’s economy moving again,” he said. “We must get people back to work. We’re looking to begin this process on May 1. We’ve got a lot more work to do between now and May 1 because we want to get this right.” He warned of “horrendous” consequences of not getting that right.

What you should do when your store reopens

Furniture stores can demonstrate their ability to operate with reasonable precautions in place. The Home Furnishings Association recently published a letter written to policymakers by Kurt L. Darrow, chairman, president and CEO of HFA member La-Z-Boy Incorporated, suggesting how this can work.

[Here’s why your furniture store is essential]

“Furniture retail stores could also be included within the first wave of businesses allowed to reopen this month if they manage the number of individuals within the store at any time – which is an approach some states are taking now during the peak of the pandemic. These retailers could easily be required to meet the following standards:

  • Health and safety protocols.
  • Hourly disinfecting protocols.
  • Hand sanitizer available to employees and guests to encourage hygiene.
  • Frequent cleaning of high-touch items like door handles, credit card terminals, computers/tablets, etc.
  • Temperature screening for team members.
  • Social distancing protocols and posting signage with protocols and reminders to employees and guests.
  • No-touching policy (no handshakes, hugs, or other close contact).
  • Limiting the number of guests allowed into the store based on the square footage of the establishment – for example: Stores with less than 7,500 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to five; stores with more than 7,500 square feet but less than 25,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 10; stores with more than 25,000 square feet but less than 50,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 50; stores with more than 50,000 square feet but less than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 75; stores with more than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 100.”

Make your case to local leaders, too

These arguments should be made now to state and local officials, who will make the determinations about which businesses can begin to reopen and when. Decisions may vary from one community to the next, and they may depend on how well a city or county has implemented effective public health practices.

HFA members also should stress how important home furnishings products are to American families – especially when it is likely that families will continue to spend more time at home than they have in the past.

‘Opening Up America Again’

The White House guidelines, called “Opening Up American Again,” identify three phases based on public health factors. When infections decrease, hospitals are able to treat all patients without crisis care, systems for testing and contact tracing are in place and other criteria are met, states and communities would be ready to progress through the different phases until everything returns to normal. The plan did not state a timeline.

Business guidelines for all phases are:

“Develop and implement appropriate policies, in accordance with federal, state and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices, regarding:

  • Social distancing and protective equipment.
  • Temperature checks.
  • Sanitation.
  • Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas.
  • Business travel.

“Monitor workforce for indicative symptoms. Do not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider.

“Develop and implement policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing following employee COVID+ test.”

‘If possible, return to work in phases’

In Phase 1, employers should:

“Continue to encourage telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations. If possible, return to work in phases. Close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols. Minimize non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel. Strongly consider special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population.”

In Phase 2, employers should:

“Continue to encourage telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations. Close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce moderate social distancing protocols. Non-essential travel can resume. Strongly consider special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population.”

Phase 3 is: “Unrestricted staffing of worksites.”

Furniture stores should be among the first.

[HFA webinar: Are you ready when your store can reopen?]

[HFA’s COVID-19 Recovery Resources]

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