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Clear guidance, protocols could help Florida businesses decide best time to reopen

The Center Square – “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Mask, No Service.”

Get used to it. You may see it on storefronts and office doors soon.

The phrase was among the ideas presented during Thursday’s teleconference of the 23-member Re-Open Florida Task Force Industry Working Group on Administrative, Education, Information & Technology, Manufacturing, Utilities and Wholesale.

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The group, led by state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, discussed reopening K-12 schools in August on Wednesday, with Thursday’s session mostly focused on manufacturing and information technology businesses.

Enterprise Florida Senior Vice President Manny Mencia said many manufacturers could restart production and meet safety protocols quickly if supply lines were restored.

“A large majority of (Florida manufacturers) have seen a sudden and steep decline in their sales and revenues,” Mencia said. “This is happening while they’ve also been experiencing a significant disruption in supply chains.”

Venice-based Tervis, which manufactures plastic drink tumblers, has not escaped the economic fallout from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but president Rogan Donnelly outlined how it plans to safely resume full operations.

Tervis plans to check employees’ temperatures before entering its plant, provide masks, disinfect regularly and impose social distancing in its workspaces, he said.

“We are investigating the use of temperature guns or thermal cameras,” Donnelly said.

The company is concerned about the reliable availability of thermometers, he said, noting they are “hard to find and are on back order.”

Tervis wants its employees properly trained, Donnelly said.

“Taking an employee’s temperature puts HR at higher risk, potentially exposing themselves to the virus,” he said. “Our HR team is not certified on how to actively take a temperature. So, we need to find someone who can train or certify our team, and to identify clear policies about which temperatures are too high, and what happens if a person has that temperature.”

Florida Technology Council Chief Executive Officer James Taylor offered suggested best practices for the IT industry that include daily self-screening for employees and clients; in-house social distancing; training on how to use personal protective equipment; a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment, sanitizer, soap, and other such supplies; disinfection and cleaning protocols; and signage.

His suggested sign: “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Mask, No Service.”

Taylor said the key to getting “the onus off the state and put it back on the businesses” to determine when they are ready to reopen is clear guidance and protocols.

“By meeting these different protocols, it allows them to say, ‘Yes we can do that. We’re in a position to open right now,’ ” he said.

Broward College President Greg Haile said economic crisis typically results in college and technical school enrollment boosts, but, with the COVID-19 pandemic, all bets are off.

“This is unlike anything we have ever seen,” Haile said.

Miami-Dade County Early Learning Coalition President Evelio Torres said with K-12 schools closed at least until August, any plan to reopen the economy must address child care and provide operators with resources to ensure they are safe.

“Full social distancing in a child care setting is practically impossible,” Torres said. “So the ones that are open may not have enough personal protection equipment due to the shortages. A lot of them are making do with what they have. But this is a concern to the staff, a concern to the parents, as well to owners and directors.”

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