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By Nidiane Martinelli, PhD

It’s been more than two months since America first came in contact with the invisible enemy of coronavirus, and finally, the stores are preparing to re-open soon. Despite our wishes to go back to normal — to life as it was before COVID-19 — that will only happen after a vaccine or effective treatment is adequately designed and approved.

For now, we will have “the new normal,” which will include many more steps to protect customers and employees. It doesn’t matter if you are a barbershop or restaurant owner; the concern for public safety is all the same. The United States is preparing to open in roughly 3 different phases, which gradually will lift restrictions on what people can and cannot do.

The first phase is coming soon (hopefully): It will start when the number of cases of COVID-like and influenza-like syndromes has a downward trend for at least 14 days. It’s time to prepare the businesses to come back and serve the community. Employers must develop and implement appropriate policies regarding protective equipment, sanitation, disinfection of common areas, among other measures. Bear in mind, this will be a slow process, and it will take time to be fully back and running smoothly again.

All businesses that start to reopen must provide masks to their employers, and they should use them at all times (and WEAR THEM PROPERLY!). It is going to feel strange at the beginning to order something from someone using a mask, but we will adapt soon. Another possibility for restaurants with dine-in options — arrange tables in a way that it will always mean you’re six feet apart fro each other while dining.

For restaurants, some jurisdictions have limited the number of patrons at 30-50% of the total capacity to avoid large gatherings. Restaurants will no doubt encourage family meals to be “to go” and wipe tables, menus, and chairs every time between one client and another.

Barbershops and salons are in great demand at these times as well —people have been waiting to get nails done and haircuts for almost two months, and some are dying to have the disastrous effects of their spouse’s attempt as a barber or hairstylist fixed.

At places where employers and clients need to be in close contact, it is of the utmost importance to wear masks and gloves at all times. For salons and barbershops where chairs are usually less than six feet apart, the suggestion is to start with 30% of total capacity having two empty chairs between each client receive a treatment.

Retail stores can (and should) implement one-way-only aisles inside the stores for customers, provide on-the-spot disinfection for shopping carts, and put markers on the floor every 6 feet to help customers to maintain a safe distance from one another. Other measures may include limiting the number of customers inside, allowing only people who are wearing masks to enter and check the temperature of clients before entering.

Regarding trying on clothes, some retail stores may simply not allow it during these times. When accepting returns, the stores should clean the product with disinfecting products or avoid returns completely when possible.

Independent of being a salon, barbershop, restaurant or store, there are several ways to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The first thing would be to educate all personnel regarding the transmission of SARS-COv-2 and how to disinfect all areas. Here’s just a small list of actions that all business owners could adopt once the time to reopen comes:

  • Staggered working hours will reduce the contact between employees and minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Increase physical space between workers at the worksite.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, and doorknobs with an alcohol or bleach based cleaner.
  • Limit the number of employees allowed simultaneously in break rooms and ensure break-rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized as well.
  • Open at a reduced capacity following the guideline for each state, county or city's Department of Health.
  • Install acrylic shields over reception desks to protect those greeting customers or receive payments.
  • Educate the workforce to reduce unnecessary touching.
  • Always have hand sanitizer readily available to guests — or ask every client — to clean hands or to wash them with soap and water upon entering your place.
  • Ask for customers to be wearing masks at all times, except when receiving facial treatments like beard trimming or eating.
  • Check for employee heath and sign of symptoms every day; CDC guidance states the minimum temperature that indicates a fever is 100°F. Employees with ANY symptom of flu-like illness should stay home. If it is a critical employee, businesses should have a contingency plan and train someone for temporary replacement.
  • Check restrooms regularly; clean and sanitize them based on the frequency of use.
  • Use technology solutions where possible to reduce person-to-person interaction: mobile ordering and menu tablets, ZOOM conferences for meetings, etc.
  • Integrate contactless payment options into your checkout procedures — this is good for business anyway!


Every place will face different challenges in reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic; above were just a few tips on how to enhance safety and keep vigilant through these times.

Business owners and workers must adhere strictly to increased safety and sanitation guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

For real estate business, the chant has always been “Location, location, location!!!” It is possible to adapt it for any business opening soon “Safety, safety, safety!!!”


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