Trying to operate any business in Idaho in this time of COVID-19 is a challenge. The number of COVID-19 cases are increasing, face coverings are divisive, staying on top of cleaning is difficult, staffing is an issue, and some people aren’t following the guidelines recommended by public health officials, potentially causing the numbers to rise even higher.
Operating a bar in this environment is even more difficult. Customers are drinking alcohol, which dulls the ability to make good decisions, and the bars are packed with people who are tired of staying home. That is risky behavior in a pandemic; and the evidence bears that out as we saw with a cluster of cases that started in bars in downtown Boise two weeks ago and grew in the locations and types of businesses impacted.
While Ada County has now moved back to Stage 3 from the Idaho Rebounds plan and bars have been ordered to close, it is an opportunity to learn about the devastating impact COVID-19 can have if businesses and people are not socially responsible and creating environments where people can stay healthy and businesses can stay open.
The following is a list of actions that businesses and patrons can take to help keep the doors open:
- Staff consistently wear face coverings.
- Customers wear face coverings.
- Physical distancing and occupancy restrictions are in place and practiced.
- Public health and business owners educate the public on responsible socializing while COVID-19 is circulating.
- Local public health districts can assist establishments in an on-site technical review of operational plans for increased safety and sanitation.
- Customers can let businesses know they appreciate being kept safe and visit establishments that provide for that safety.
These are great examples of how businesses should protect their customers by making it easier for them to adhere to the guidelines by having their employees adhere to them, and how they can do their part to keep Idaho open during this pandemic by reducing the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 in their establishments.
Customers can show their respect for the businesses by adhering to their protocols and guidelines, and they can show respect for their fellow Idahoans by following public health advice.
We can and should all be doing our part to reduce the risk and help keep Idaho open, by wearing cloth face coverings in public, keeping 6 feet apart in public, staying home if you’re sick, and washing or sanitizing your hands frequently. And we might all be more inclined to do that if our favorite local businesses provide a safer place to shop or have a drink with a friend (6 feet apart) because they are following the protocols as well.
Elke Shaw-Tulloch is the administrator of the Division of Public Health and the state’s public health officer.