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Shop Smart is responsible way to reopen

Oh, I am so sick of this virus!

COVID, COVID, COVID is all we see, hear and read.

I know you are, too. It’s like a bad nightmare that won’t go away.

And I’m getting antsy. I want to eat in a restaurant. I want to go out of town, if only for a weekend. Stay at a nice hotel. Get my hair cut. Get a pedicure. I need a little pampering. And I need cocktails and conversation with friends and family.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be safe for any of those things for a while.

And while I may be eager for life to return to some sense of normalcy, I’m not willing to die for any of those things, nor am I willing to put someone else’s life at risk for them.

As Dr. Blane Mire, a physician and partner in Internal Medicine Associates of Natchez, said recently, we can’t compare this novel coronavirus with a flu season or even pneumonia. It is exponentially more contagious.

“The statistics we have for flu season or pneumonia are compiled over a 365 day cycle. Have we ever had a season of flu where seven people die here in the course of six weeks? No, we haven’t,” he said. “I don’t think everything should be wide open or totally closed. We need a smart transition.”

We have hope for exactly that kind of transition, thanks to an Economic Recovery Task Force put together several weeks ago by Natchez Now and Natchez Inc. and Concordia Economic Development. The task force has been meeting with the sole focus of making certain when the time is right, the businesses of the Miss-Lou are able to open up quickly, but in a way that provides safety for employees and customers.

The task force released guidelines on Friday afternoon, called Shop Smart Miss-Lou, which include basic standards for businesses to include when reopening. If the business commits to doing so, it will be designated as a Shop Smart Location.

Shoppers and employees of a Shop Smart business will know that business is doing everything it can to allow them to work and shop without increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Those basic benchmarks for Shop Smart businesses to follow include:

4Require employees and customers to wear protective masks inside the building and while interacting.

4Provide proper personal protective equipment to employees and enforcing coughing and sneezing etiquette.

4Require employees to wash hands or use hand sanitizer between each customer interaction and multiple times throughout shifts.

4Provide hand sanitizing stations at the entry and exit of the building and at high traffic areas of the business.

4Require employees to clean surfaces between customers and not allow employees to use another employee’s phone or workstation without conducting proper sanitizing methods.

4Require employees to stay home if they are sick, if they have an immediate family member who is sick, or of they have been exposed to Covid-19.

4Limit the number of people inside the building to 50 percent of the approved occupancy, allowing at least six feet between each person inside.

4Limit in-person interaction by providing alternatives to employees and customers allowing a work from hope option to employees and online or curbside services for customers, if such is feasible.

4Educate and train all employees on new business practices and on the health and safety standards provided by the CDC on preventing the spread of the virus.

4Comply with all local, state and industry specific guidelines to re-open in a manner to maintain the health and safety of employees and customers.

Shop Smart businesses will enjoy inclusion in an area-wide marketing campaign and, after signing a document committing to these best practices, will be able to display such at their businesses.

The city’s task force issues similar back-to-business guidelines Friday.

If our local businesses will sign on, we can all get back to some kind of new normal that allows us to interact with each other and get our economy moving again.

It won’t be like before the virus for some time, but we will get there more quickly if we show patience and cooperation.

Like the Economic Recovery Task Force slogan reads, “Put your money where home is. Be the key to our recovery!”

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You can reach her at 601-445-3627 or by email at jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.