Getting Pennsylvanians safely back to work

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PHOTO: Visit Philly

By Rob Wonderling

As our state and local governments begin providing guidance for reopening society, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia took a pulse of our region’s business community to better understand their thoughts, challenges and questions as we look ahead to the next phase of this crisis — getting back to work.

Two deceptively simple questions rang the loudest among employer responses: When? How?

When can I open my doors? When will it be safe? When will my specific county be ready?

How can I ensure the safety of my employees? How will I get PPE? How do I protect my business?

The answers to these questions, and the many others we have received, will in some cases be straight forward. Other answers will be highly nuanced according to a company’s location, size, industry and customer interactions.

Throughout the crisis, the Chamber has been working tirelessly to get to the heart of these issues and guide businesses through reopening with our organized approach to advocacy and knowledge sharing.

Recently, Gov. Tom Wolf announced which counties will start a phased reopening beginning May 8.

The Governor’s Plan for Pennsylvania outlined standards for reopening which included a color-coded chart which showed red, yellow and green categories for reopening. Using a modeling dashboard that incorporates data that considers worker exposure and spread risks, health care capacity, economic impact, and supply chain impact, the governor acknowledged that the Greater Philadelphia region is likely to be the last part of the state to get to “green.”

Additional new business guidance was issued by the governor in early May that details procedures businesses must follow to conduct in-person operations in counties slated to move to the yellow phase of reopening. All businesses, including nonprofits, permitted to conduct in-person operations are subject to this guidance. The guidance includes specific information on cleaning and disinfecting premises, limiting the number of employees in common areas and customers on premises, providing masks and sanitizing supplies for employees, installing shields or other barriers at registers and checkout areas and creating a plan in case business is exposed to probable or confirmed cases.  It also states that:

  • Teleworking is still required if possible
  • Taking the temperature of each employee before entering the business, and sending anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees home.
  • Staggering work start and stop times to keep the number of employees together at any one time down.
  • Restricting the number of people in a common area like a break room and clean those areas regularly.
  • Keeping the number of in-person meetings to 10 participants or less with physical distance of at least six feet for each person, and companies are encouraged to hold meetings virtually in any case.

Our business and community leaders’ top priority is ensuring the health and well being of our employees and our customers, but we must also keep an eye on the damage this virus has done to our overall economy and the workers that depend on their jobs to support their families. Some 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment compensation benefits and the Commonwealth is now looking to secure a federal loan to continue paying out those benefits.

The sooner we navigate a safe and responsible plan for Pennsylvania employers and employees to get back to work the better. The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia is here to help businesses plot a new course to not only recover, but grow.

Rob Wonderling is president and CEO of The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and can be reached at [email protected]



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