The state released official guidelines Saturday that paint a more detailed picture of what Connecticut’s partial reopening on May 20 will mean for businesses and consumers as the state continues to battle the coronavirus.
Five sets of documents detail rules for hair salons, zoos and museums, offices, restaurants and retail stores.
The guidelines, released the day after Department of Economic Development Commissioner David Lehman gave a presentation on the rules for reopening, come as certain eligible businesses prepare to resume operations after a two-month-long closure meant to curb the spread of the virus.
The anticipated reopening comes as Connecticut’s death toll nears 3,000. The state reported another 58 deaths Saturday, putting the official total at 2,932.
Nursing homes remain especially hard it, and they are still barred from visitors. On Friday, the state Department of Public Health ordered all facilities to make sure residents communicate with their loved ones at least once a week.
Matt Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, and Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut, issued a joint statement on the new nursing home communication order, saying it mirrored the practices nursing homes statewide already enacted after the pandemic hit and visitation was restricted.
“Nursing homes understand that residents and families are struggling during this time of no in-person visitation and they have been creatively providing alternative means of communication,” the statement said. “At once, we applaud the amazing efforts of our nursing homes and employees who understand the importance of being like family when the family can’t be physically present.”
Meanwhile, businesses and the state looking at how to reopen the economy while implementing adequate measures to protect public health.
“The governor stressed that the decision to reopen during this phase rests with each individual business owner — they are not required to open if they do not choose, however if they do they must follow the rules as prescribed,” a release from Gov. Ned Lamont’s office, which included the guidelines, said.
Before businesses can reopen, they will have to self-certify via an online program, according to a release from Gov. Lamont’s office.
The state is also directing businesses to post signs letting customers and employees know how they can report violations: by calling 211, the state hotline.
Each set of guidelines invokes the Whistleblower Protection Act.
“Employers may not retaliate against workers for raising concerns about COVID-related safety and health conditions,” the documents say.
Here are some highlights from the newly-released documents. While many rules apply across the board, we’ve also broken them down by business type.
As officials announced in Gov. Ned Lamont’s Friday briefing, all of the nonessential businesses permitted to reopen later this month will have to cap their occupancy at half capacity.
They will also need to train employees on disinfection protocols laid out by the University of Washington.
Employers are responsible for providing personal protective equipment for their staff, who are required to wear face coverings. The only exception is for office buildings, where workers in segregated spaces are allowed to take off their masks.
The rules also requires customers to bring and wear their own face coverings.
Each set of guidelines lays out strategies to keep employees at a distance from one another. At restaurants, servers are to have discrete sections of tables with little or no overlap; at zoos, attendants are to stick to one work station in order to minimize movement.
The state is encouraging businesses to install touchless appliances, like motion-activated soap dispensers and hand dryers, and asking them to install visual markers that will remind people to visitors to stay six feet apart from one another.
The same applies to employees. Whether they come in the form of desks or counters, businesses should keep work stations six feet apart from one another, or install partitions where that is not possible.
Employers will also need to stagger lunch breaks and shift start times, and they’ll need to ask employees if they’ve experienced COVID-19 symptoms on a daily basis. Employee logs, which will track when staff members are on premises, will support contact tracing.
And whether it’s a hair stylist’s scissors or a server’s food tray, workers are not to share equipment.
Restaurateurs, who already knew they could only serve diners outdoors, will not be able to offer buffets, and will need to supply disposable menus or encourage customers to view meal options on their phones, according to the restaurant-specific guidelines.
Tables will need to sit at least six feet apart from one another, a distance that will be measured between the nearest chairs.
Only single-use condiment packets or containers will be allowed, so restaurants will have to remove their shared ketchup bottles.
While the rules require customers to wear face coverings, they can remove them while they eat.
At hair salons, blow drying won’t be allowed at hair salons and conversations will be limited, state documents indicate.
Your waiting room experience will also look a little different: clients won’t be able to read a magazine, salons will not be allowed to provide reading materials.
They also have to remove customer water and coffee machines.
The office rules stress the importance of social distancing on elevators, suggesting offices ask employees to use the stairs if they can.
Employers should also use elevator attendants to manage crowding, and post signs with healthy elevator-use protocols.
While zoos and museums will be allowed to reopen many outdoor areas, indoor exhibits, interactive exhibits, gift shops and food stands must remain closed, according to the rules, which also prohibit guided tours.
Zoos and museums must also determine the maximum occupancy at each exhibit that will allow visitors to remain six feet apart.
Attendants are to enforce that occupancy, the guidelines state.
While shoppers can return to the mall, they won’t be able to try on clothes before making purchases, as fitting rooms are to stay closed, according to the state guidelines.
Like hair salons, stores are to remove nonessential amenities such as self-serve samples. And workstations should be six feet apart or partitioned.