As the country starts to emerge from the COVID-19 shutdowns, it’s time for businesses to start considering how this “new normal” will affect the way they do business. None of us know for sure what this “new normal” will be or what it means for business, which makes this time incredibly difficult and stressful for everyone.

What’s important to understand as we move forward in that, while we cannot give people CERTAINTY right now, we can give them CLARITY about what the plan is today and that the plan could change tomorrow. 

How do we do that? For one, we need to revamp our business structure. We need to implement an emergency response team that is dedicated to looking at the best ways to pivot during this reopening and at ways to be prepared for future emergency situations. It’s also a good idea to establish a separate team to make sure that the recommended changes are being implemented.

Meanwhile, the “normal” business must be started up again. 

The number one way to ensure our employees and customers that we are responsive to the changing situation while continuing to return to the new normal is to communicate so much that we are tired of it. Communicate when we make changes. Communicate about when we. expect to make changes. Communicate when we have a plan and communicate that we know the plan could change. Don’t underestimate how much our employees and customers need to hear from us, now more than ever.

In addition to businesses beginning a return to normal, the country needs to have a plan about how we move forward from this. This five-point plan for opening America back up can also be helpful for business leaders and owners as they move forward in the coming weeks.

5 Point Plan to Restore America to the “New Normal”

ACCESS:  Get the facts out there.
It’s important as we move forward to acknowledge the facts about COVID-19. So far, the death rate for people 18-50, without pre-existing conditions is 10 times less than the flu, and the overall death rate is the same as the flu based on recent antibody studies from Stanford University. The flu kills children and, to date, COVID-19 does not. Every year, car wrecks, suicide, and heart disease kill more Americans than COVID-19 has. Putting Coronavirus in context can help to lessen the fear and panic surrounding this novel disease.

ACKNOWLEDGE not everyone will agree.
Currently, there are competing points of view about how we move forward. Businesses desire to open so they avoid bankruptcy and further disruptions to people’s lives. The healthcare industry wants to continue social distancing and shutdown measures to limit the deaths from COVID-19. (This point of view is admirable but not logical and the cost of achieving this will exceed the cost of opening up our economy.) Our governments don’t want to be blamed for not reacting, so they WILL be OVER conservative as they make decisions.  Thus, we as leaders and Americans must make the best overall decision: This is not a popular statement, but as Dr. Spock once said on Star Trek years ago: “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.”

ANTICIPATE when and how much to re-open is the single biggest and the most difficult decision to make. As we think about this decision, it’s important to consider the downsides of not re-opening:

  1. Death from suicide, the cost of mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, drug addiction, divorce, and abuse as a result of the shutdown and stay-at-home orders.
  2. Cost of Unemployment at 20% and the negative ramifications of an unemployment rate that high. 
  3. Taxes to pay for the effects of these impacts.

A MEASURED PLAN:
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Reopening can happen in a way that protects those at risk while allowing others to go about their daily lives unimpeded. 

  1. Re-open now to all who are 18-60 and do not show any symptoms.  
  2. Take temperatures at the entrance to every large gathering place. Continue to mandate masks until people feel safe and encourage people to be creative and make their own. 
  3. Those 70 and older or those with pre-existing conditions remain under shelter-in-place orders with the full support of the government. For those not at risk, embrace herd immunity and resume daily activities. 
  4. Save tests for the elderly and those defined as at-risk. Mandate weekly testing for anyone working with groups of elderly.
  5. Gatherings of 200 or less can start up again as long as everyone in attendance is 60 and under
  6. All restaurants, bars, small businesses, etc. can re-open as long as they stick to the current gathering methodology to keep people safe.
  7. If you are 70 or older, you must have a weekly certificate stating you are healthy if you want to go to public gatherings where social distancing is not practiced. 
  8. ALL RESOURCES need to go to help the 60 and older population OR those with a pre-existing condition.
  9. Those who can return to work must return to work or they cannot continue to collect unemployment.
  10. At-risk children will receive tutoring and/or a stay-at-home online curriculum. All other children should return to school to help build immunity and decrease the stress, anxiety, and depression caused by being at home.   
  11. Stop the six-foot distance requirement unless there is a hospital capacity issue.   
  12. All essential employees (health care, garbage haulers, etc.) have no income tax this year. 

RE-ASSESS consistently based on new information. Just like with businesses, the government should be clear and consistent in how they change their plans based on new information. For example, as long as hospital capacity is under control keep moving to gradually expand gathering sizes.
It’s also important to ensure that industries that rely on large gathering sizes also have sufficient plans in place so specific reopening plans should be required from sports leagues, airlines, cruise ships, etc.

Moving Forward

We knew after 9/11 that life would never be the same; that flying and/or being in tall buildings would change forever, and it did. The same is true for COVID-19. Until there is a vaccine or the virus is better understood, our experience with large crowds will be fundamentally different. It’s important that we as leaders demonstrate to those that trust us that we understand this and are doing everything in our power to adjust accordingly.

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