A sizable chunk of Long Island's economy will reopen on Wednesday – but questions remain on how to operate safely with the coronavirus still a very real threat.
Offices, real estate firms, automobile dealerships, hair salons, in-store retail sales and other businesses in Phase 2 will open for the first time since being shut down in late March by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to slow the virus’ spread.
“Phase 2 is probably the biggest volume of businesses that can reopen in our region,” said Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association and a member of the control board that decides whether the region moves to the next phase.
Here are answers to common questions about resuming business activity:
Q: Where can businesses find the state’s reopening rules?
Details from Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency, can be found at forward.ny.gov.
Q: Do business owners have to provide proof of compliance with the reopening guidelines?
Yes. Business owners must complete an affirmation document stating they’ve read and follow the reopening rules. Go to forms.ny.gov/s3/ny-forward-affirmation and submit the document electronically.
Q: What is the COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan that reopening businesses are being asked to complete?
Business owners must fill out a safety plan for employees and customers. It should be on display in the business. The form can be found at nwsdy.li/safetyplan. Inspectors from the health department, fire marshal’s office, building department or police may ask to see the safety plan at any time.
Q: Where can I find specific information about my industry and whether my business is eligible to reopen?
Empire State Development has created a toolkit tailored to specific industries in each region of New York. It can be found at businessexpress.ny.gov/app/nyforward. Business owners will be asked for their industry, or NAICS, code, which can be looked up at naics.com/search. Also, the tourism promotion agency Discover Long Island has a best practices guide for restaurants, hotels and other tourism businesses at nwsdy.li/discbest.
Q: Can a business refuse entry to a customer who isn’t wearing a mask?
Yes. Cuomo issued an executive order giving businesses this right. Businesses should post signs on windows and entrance doors to alert customers to the mask requirement as well as social distancing. Printable signs are available at discoverlongisland.com/besafepledge.
Q: Are there limits of how many customers and employees can be in a business at any one time?
The occupancy rate may not exceed 50% of the previous fire code limit to comply with social distancing.
Q: Do businesses have to provide personal protective equipment, or PPE, to their employees and customers?
Masks or other face coverings must be given to employees; providing them to shoppers is optional.
Q: Should businesses publicize what they are doing to keep employees and customers safe?
Absolutely. Businesses can allay customers’ fears about catching the coronavirus by outlining safety measures via websites, social media and advertising.
Q: If the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations or deaths start to climb again, could the economy be shut down again?
Yes. To see how the region is faring, go to forward.ny.gov/regional-unpause-dashboard.
Q: Do the reopening guidelines apply to businesses that were deemed essential and allowed to remain open?
Yes, and no waivers will be issued.
Q: If an employee becomes ill with the coronavirus does the business have to close?
Businesses must clean and disinfect the areas where the infected employee worked and may have to close while this work is being done.
Q: Are businesses required to accommodate employees’ need to social distance during work- and lunch breaks?
Yes, and this can be done by staggering shifts and break times.
Q: How much space needs to be maintained between customers in a hair salon, barbershop or other personal care business?
The industry’s best practice is 36 square feet per customer.