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Guest Spot: Let’s certify businesses as ‘COVID compliant’

Confusion and mixed messages abound concerning the full reopening of the economy. Is it happening too soon or not soon enough? Will I be safe dining out or shopping in small stores where social distancing might be difficult? Businesses, patrons and employees need clarity and reassurance as we head into a reopening phase. 

As New York State and the CDC grapple with reopening guidelines and time lines for Phase 2 and beyond, we all want our economy to fully rebound as quickly as possible, but caution and health concerns may be a greater hindrance to reopening efforts than state time lines. With so much misinformation about the coronavirus, we need to be guided by science, not rumors or internet memes.

May I make a suggestion?

Why don’t we, through our county health department, create a “COVID compliant” status for bars, restaurants, shops and retailers? 

Currently, the health department issues food handlers certificates for those who come into contact with food. Why not a similar certification for COVID protocol? I, for one, would feel better entering a shop knowing that the owner and staff have been through some sort of formal teaching about how to best handle the looming presence of the coronavirus.

Here’s what I picture: The health department gives a quick online video course for business owners, who can take it in their own time frame. The tutorial will allow the health department to provide the latest and best information available so businesses can operate in the safest possible manner. The video course would cover sanitary protocol, the proper way to route customers through shops and businesses, mask use and what to do in case of emergency.

Upon completion of the course, the health department would issue a “COVID compliant” certificate to be hung in the place of business, much like New York City issues ratings for restaurants.

“COVID compliant” would offer a measure of trust and comfort that the business we are patronizing has received official information and is committed to engaging in best practices to keep their customers and clients safe. 

We all want to do the right thing — for our customers, our families and ourselves. Let’s reassure the public, teach best practices and make our local shops and businesses as safe as we can as we all adjust to the new reality.

Ms. Jens-Smith is a former Riverhead Town supervisor and a Democratic Party candidate for the state Assembly.