Now that we are all slowly returning to some type of normalcy, it is crucial that we do our part to upkeep and maintain a healthy environment for employees and customers in hopes to reduce or even eliminate COVID cases in our regions.
One thing this sudden pandemic has taught us is that we should be better prepared for the future, and one way is to construct a COVID Emergency Plan for your establishment.
The fact is, you have staff who are working the frontlines and also enjoying a personal life - therefore if one of them tests positive for the virus and has worked within 2 weeks of taking the test and receiving their results, you need to be prepared to quickly react and take action.
Having a plan set in place will assist in reducing friction within the organization as well as ease the obvious reaction, which is to panic.
As you develop your COVID Emergency Plan for your restaurant or bar, there are some things to take into consideration and questions that will need to be answered.
Know Your Rights and Follow Government Recommendations/By-Laws Within Your Region:
- Are you required to shut down your bar or restaurant to the public if an employee tests positive for COVID?
This will be different depending on your region - some regions, such as Texas, are not legally required to shut down. However, other states, such as Massachusetts have a mandate that the restaurant must be closed for at least 24 hours. This could become confusing and, to be honest, a difficult decision to make, especially if you’ve been closed for the last few months. But keep this in mind - what will your customers think if you remain open. It is crucial that we all do our part in this process - therefore, if the option is open in your region, WE strongly recommend that you make the right decision and shut down for at least a day to do a deep clean of your establishment, release communications on the matter (see more below on this), and notify staff.
- Do you need to report the situation to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)?
- Are you responsible to contact known others who have come in close contact with an infected employee at your establishment?
As the owner, you or your manager should contact all staff that have worked with the individual, notify them of the situation and ask them to take a test before returning back to work. This is something that the Ontario Government requires employers to do - again, this may be different in your region, but always think what the best course of action would be for you, your employees and your customers to stay safe.
Be sure you are staying up to date with the changing health policies in your region for optimal health and safety for your establishment.
Insurance Questions - If applicable
Workers Compensations (WC)
- Are there parameters around when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 for filing a worker’s compensation claim?
- What circumstances will a WC claim be covered relating to COVID?
- What is the WC insurance company expecting from you to limit the exposure to your employees in order to help determine if a claim will be compensated?
- If the virus spreads to other employees, will your employees be compensated for lost time, permanent disability, medical expenses, etc.?
Business Interruption (BI) Insurance
- What parameters, limits and exclusions are in place and what you should be looking out for before a potential claim takes place?
- Is your insurance covering BI due to the spread of the virus, causing your establishment to shut down?
If someone in your organization tests positive you will need to react quickly and communicate the situation to your staff, especially those who worked closely with the infected employee, as well as your clientele. Before you send any communication make sure you are aware of the obligations set in place by your local government agencies and health department to ensure all boxes are checked. For example - the Government of Canada mentions that the employee’s name can remain unknown in internal and public-facing communications unless there is a demonstrated need to identify the person publicly
When notifying the public, be sure to post something on your door, website and social media informing them that it was brought to your attention that someone with the virus was in the establishment and that you will need to close for a set number of days in order to sanitize, deep clean and test all employees. Greta Bar in Edmonton, Alberta did just that and put out a simple communication notifying the public that a guest with the virus had been in their establishment on a specific day - you can read more about their communications here. Also, it would be helpful to provide a tentative reopening date in order to notify your customers when your establishment will be safe and operational.
When it comes to communicating with staff, here are some steps to follow and include in your Emergency Plan:
- Show support for the affected employee and act quickly. Ask the employee which coworkers they have been in contact with within 2 weeks of testing positive.
- Send the infected employee home immediately and advise them to follow your region’s rules, whether it’s to seek medical attention or self-quarantine for a minimum of 2 weeks.
- Notify your employees, specifically those in contact with the infected and have them take a test before returning to work. There are local organizations who can administer COVID testing for your staff - be sure to have their contact information in your back pocket.
- Determine your company policy as to when an infected employee can return back to work - be sure to communicate this to all employees.
- If appropriate, have your infected employee apply for Workers Compensation.
- Know what your paid time off policy is for sickness and share with employees.
Dot your I’s and Cross Your T’s - Some Other Considerations to Include in Your Emergency Plan:
- Before you reopen, do a deep clean of your restaurant, kitchen, restrooms and break rooms - this job might be best left to a professional cleaning company if able. Don’t forget that all high touch point areas, including pieces of equipment, menus, bottles, containers, etc. should be wiped down and fully sanitized.
- Have an outside company that will come in and test your employees - this will help get operations back up and running smoothly and at a faster rate.
- Ask for feedback - don’t hesitate to ask your employees or networking contacts what other initiatives should be included in your Emergency Plan. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- You are not a health care professional and cannot advise medical advice.
When putting together your plan, remember that you can always go above what your region is requesting as some areas are more relaxed than others. The Connecticut Business & Industry Association released a great employer guide that takes you through steps of what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. These guidelines include 4 steps that are based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employees. These are great resources that we recommend you all review and assist you when creating your Emergency Plan.
For additional information and guidance on COVID-19 within the hospitality industry, we advise you to refer to the World Health Organization, specifically their guide on everything related to the virus and to help prevent and attend to infections.
This is a delicate time and we all need to do our part to keep our communities healthy. If you have any questions or need any assistance, whether inventory related or not, please feel free to reach out - you are not in this alone and we are happy to be a part of your team.