CHAMPAIGN — Employees in masks, capacity limits, extensive sanitizing and continuing those all-important 6-foot social distances — sound familiar?
This is some of what consumers can expect to find when Champaign County businesses begin to reopen soon, and to some extent, it will be similar to what they’ve been experiencing in businesses that have remained open since Illinois’ mandatory lockdown in late March.
Safe reopening guidelines for various business segments, from hair salons to child care centers, have been spelled out on a new website at champaigncountysafe.org.
All local businesses planning to reopen are encouraged to check it out, said Champaign Planning and Development Director Bruce Knight.
This resource hub for local businesses has been based on best practices and assembled by nearly two dozen local organizations and municipalities, local officials said.
It’s intended to be advisory only. Businesses are being advised to consult their lawyers and make sure all decisions they make in reopening are based on a review of relevant laws.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s announcement Wednesday that restaurants and bars would also have a chance to reopen soon, with outdoor seating only, was unexpected news, according to Champaign County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Laura Weis.
“We’ve got 10 days for people to get prepared,” she said.
What reopening will initially look like “is a good question,” Weis said, but she projected the public will venture back out in the community.
“I think there’s a strong sense of people wanting to return to normal,” she said.
Nothing about this is going to be normal, Weis warned, though “I think we’re going to be getting to light at the end of the tunnel.”
Knight said Champaign County has taken a multi-agency approach to planning for a safe reopening.
The city isn’t looking at extensive road closures downtown to help provide extended outdoor seating space for restaurants, largely because restaurants have indicated curbside pickups are essential for their survival, he said.
The city is, however, considering some minor street closures and ways for businesses to use parking lots for outdoor table space, Knight said.
For bars, coffee shops, restaurants and catering services, some of the guidelines on the new website include spacing tables six feet apart, removing condiments from tables and providing them on request only — with containers sanitized in between use — and removing lemons and unwrapped straws from self-service drink stations.
Also: Patrons should be encouraged to view menus on their personal devices or posted where they can be viewed without being touched. And if menus are laminated, they should be cleaned in between use or disposable paper menus should be used, the guide says.
Barber shops and hair and nail salons are being advised to provide services by appointments only and to limit the number of clients allowed inside at any one time to three, or 50 percent of the normal capacity. Stations should be separated by six feet and all equipment, chairs and tables should be sanitized between clients. And no books or magazines should be provided to customers.
Hotels are advised to add disinfectant to laundry loads and rethink significant touch points in rooms such as remote controls, room service menus and reading materials.
The new website also includes general guidelines for keeping workplaces safe and information such as how long COVID-19 lives on various kinds of surfaces, preparing business spaces to limit the spread of germs and cleaning and disinfecting after opening.
Local businesses are also being asked to go to the new website and take a safety pledge setting out what customers can expect from them. Those who take the pledge will be included on an online list the public can see, and the pledges can also be posted in business windows.