Today, Benton County officials confirmed the State of Oregon had approved the county’s application to open tomorrow, May 15.
Confirmation came from a county press release that struck a cautionary tone.
“Just because businesses can reopen tomorrow does not mean that they are required to do so. We recommend that businesses take the time to ensure they have the proper protocols and supplies in place to safely reopen–and stay open,” said Bryan Lee, Benton County Emergency Manager.
“Local businesses are grappling with very serious decisions. Businesses that reopen have the responsibility of protecting their workforce and the public. If a business cannot provide for the health and safety of their employees, whether it is due to supply chain delays or financial burdens, then we recommend that they should not reopen until they can implement measures to mitigate exposure and spread of the virus.”
The Oregon Health Authority issued guidance for businesses to implement workplace safeguards as feasible or when required, specifying:
- Implement physical distancing measures.
- Increase physical space between workers.
- Restrict use of any shared items or equipment.
- Require disinfection of equipment between uses.
- Reinforce meticulous hand hygiene (frequent and proper handwashing).
- Consider staging additional hand washing facilities and hand sanitizer around the workplace.
- Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces and high traffic areas.
- Encourage or require employee use of cloth or disposable face coverings.
- Consider upgrades to facilities that may reduce exposure, such as no-touch appliances, touchless payment methods, fresh-air ventilation, and filtration improvements, etc.
- Limit the number of employees gathering in shared spaces.
- Restrict use of shared spaces such as conference rooms and break rooms by limiting occupancy or staggering use.
The press release went on to state, that businesses and agencies must restrict non-essential meetings and conduct meetings virtually as much as possible. Also stating, that if in-person meetings are necessary, that participants should follow physical distancing requirements.
The county is also asking employers to consider regular health checks (e.g., temperature and respiratory symptom screening) of employees. A complete guidance document is available at https://sharedsystems.dhsoha.state.or.us/DHSForms/Served/le2342C.pdf.
Benton County emergency management officials recommend the following informational resources for reopening:
- English: https://sharedsystems.dhsoha.state.or.us/DHSForms/Served/le2320A.pdf
- Spanish: https://sharedsystems.dhsoha.state.or.us/DHSForms/Served/ls2320A.pdf
Businesses and individuals interested in this information in other languages can review the OHA COVID-19 website at https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19.
Benton County emergency management officials noted that the reopening plan balances health and safety needs alongside the economic impact to vulnerable populations.
“As the economy is impacted, more and more individuals are struggling to keep doors open and pay bills,” Lee said. “Lower socioeconomic status is a major predictor of health impacts, in addition to risk factors related to COVID-19. As local government, we have to balance the physical health and economic health needs of the community. COVID-19 is still in our community and everyone must work to mitigate the risks”.
Benton County’s reopening dashboard is available at https://www.co.benton.or.us/coronavirus. Additional reopening information will be posted online as it is available.