We’re in our second week of eased guidelines in the state of Florida, allowing retail and food businesses to open.

There are guidelines — wearing of masks, 25 percent capacity, and cleaning suggestions — but above all else there’s a Number One Rule:

Keep. Customers. Safe.

“Perception is everything, ” said Danielle Egger of the Florida Food and Safety System during a webinar Wednesday promoting effective strategies for reopening local businesses presented by the cities, Chambers and Main Street organizations of St. Cloud at Kissimmee. “And we’re going to have to get used to it, to protect one another.”

Osceola County along with those municipal groups, are forming a joining marketing effort, calling We’ve Opened Safely, to help bolster consumer confidence in visiting businesses without fear (or at least less fear) of contracting the virus while out.

You can check out a crowd-sourced site of what county businesses have opened (or not) and to what extent they’re open at StayLocalOsceola.org.

Eggers said Social distancing will be challenging, especially in service and hospitality and most retail, so interactions and congregation areas will have to be re-imagined.

“It will be helpful to educate staff and provide training. No hugs, handshakes, fist bumps,” she said. “We’ll get back to that, but right now we have to use extra caution.”

Among the other cautious tips management can use include:

  • Know where COVID-19 testing sites are, in order to recommend employees seek a test if there’s enough concern of exposure — most locations allow those who suspect they’ve been in contact with a positive case to test without exhibiting symptoms.
  • Encourage sick employees to stay home, and if symptoms show, send them to testing.
  • Keep employees on same task: register, food prep, etc. Staff in teams that stay together. If there’s a problem, that team can be segregated or even quarantined instead of the whole staff.
  • Enlist a greeter who opens door, thanks patrons for coming and keeps head count to maintain capacity limits, which is at 25 percent right now with the state at Phase I of its reopening. That greeter should have hand sanitizer to offer patrons a spritz on arrival. It all adds to the perception of safety.
  • Remove areas of congregation, like the host stand. Restaurants may want to go to reservation only.
  • Ensure staff wears masks properly so they’re covering the nose AND mouth. Use fingers from behind the ears when removing them to avoid touching them.
  • When wearing gloves, wash hands before putting them on, replace as soon as they’re soiled or torn, and wash hands in between. Dispose of them properly. Change them frequently if touching various surfaces, handling money or switching tasks, like every 30 minutes.

How staff cleans will also instill confidence, and here’s some ideas:

  • Wipe down high-touch surfaces every 30 minutes like counters, paying terminals and bathroom fixtures for now while this is still a crisis.
  • Use cleaning products properly and DON’T MIX CHEMICALS.
  • While the EPA has an extensive list of disinfectants that will kill COVID-19 virus particeles, Quaternary ammonium and bleach for disinfecting (use that one, there’s another group of bleach used for washing clothes). Stick to label use strictly, especially for bleach for dilution concentration.
  • Read labels on wipes: if there’s a contact time, the chemical has to sit on surface for at least a minute to do anything.
  • Get the hand sanitizer out of the kitchen; it does not protect against food-borne illnesses. Only washing hands suffices.
  • Servers should wash their aprons nightly.
  • Service the air conditioning unit and change filters to make healthier recirculated air. (We’re coming up on summer anyway, this should be on the usual checklist.)
  • Consider switching to plastic plates and cups for now, eliminating the risk of contamination if there isn’t full confidence the dishwasher is fully sanitizing.

Here’s hoping businesses can continue to open and operate safely and make a positive difference in Osceola County!