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Open for business: Ardmore businesses offered tips to create a safe environment for customers and staff

Drew Butler
drew.butler@ardmoreite.com
The parking lot at El Tapatio is full Wednesday evening. As more businesses across the area begin opening their doors, the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce hosted two video conference calls outlining the recommendations in place for businesses to reopen while helping employees and customers stay safe.

As the restrictions put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 are being lifted, businesses across the area are opening their doors. In order to help these businesses open safely, the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Carter County Health Department for two videoconferences on Wednesday.

The first call outlined recommendations for businesses such as restaurants, salons and bars. The second focused on general business, retail and places of worship. While specific guidelines are in place for different industries, many of the suggestions can equally apply to all business and the public at large.

Ty Randolph, public health inspector for the Carter County Health Department, said one of the most important things any business can do is look at the specific factors they will be facing.

“For instance, what materials are in your facility and what kinds of disinfectants will they take,” Randolph said. “If you put hard bleach on vinyl tops you will ruin them, whereas you can use Lysol to disinfect the same area with only a slightly different timeline.”

He pointed out the virus is easily spread by groups of people in close quarters over an extended period of time, and he urged every business to come up with creative ways to prevent congested areas.

“Any time you can have one entrance and one exit, like I’ve seen at some local stores it’s great,” Randolph said. “Also, look at your cash registers and how customers are going to pay. Maybe you can do ap based pay. For restaurants, try to continue doing curbside deliveries instead of just indoor seating. These are the things that are going to keep your staff healthy.”

Randolph also discussed the use of gloves by staff during payment transactions and why he does not recommend their use. The virus can still spread from the gloves if they are not changed between every transaction. Instead, he encourages frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer.

“When someone at the register is taking money, and they’re touching one credit card after another, they’re possibly helping that (virus) carry on if one of the customers is sick,” Randolph said. “What I recommend for point of sale transactions is no gloves and handling (the transaction) with the washing of hands, using hand sanitizers, disinfectant and other things like that. I would even go so far as to say hand washing between each transaction and the use of hand sanitizer as well.”

Randolph also recommended that all employees wear masks — especially those employees working in close proximity to one another and dealing directly with customers.

Mendy Sphon, OSDH Administrative Director for the department’s Region 8, pointed out if the masks are not properly taken care of they themselves can become a haven for viruses. They should be frequently washed with hot water, and when taking the mask off for a break they should not be placed into pockets or on unclean surfaces. One safe option is to place them in a clean paper bag during break time.

Spohn also stressed that COVID-19 will still be a threat even after businesses are given the “all clear,” and all restrictions are officially lifted. She pointed out each phase of reopening can be delayed if there is a spike in case numbers, and that running a business would be very difficult if many of the employees and customers get sick.

“Even after phase three and the governor comes out with an order that says everything is back to normal, the virus is still here,” Spohn said. “As a public officer for our area, my recommendation is to try to be sensible. Try to do what works for you to make it where you can still have a business and you can still have patrons.”

The Chamber will be posting recordings of both calls to their Facebook page, and more information on the guidelines for specific industries can be found at www.okcommerce.gov.