Panel releases guidelines for San Antonio businesses to reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic

Joshua Fechter

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A panel of San Antonio business and community leaders released their plan Tuesday for how local businesses can start up again amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan lays out guidelines for how businesses like restaurants, bars, salons, spas and hotels can safely reopen and calls for city and Bexar County to boost programs aimed at helping small businesses hit hard by economic fallout from the pandemic.

The economic transition team — headed by co-chairs Kevin Voelkel, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas president, and Julissa Carielo, Tejas Premier Building Construction president — presented their findings to a joint meeting of City Council and Commissioners Court Tuesday.

“We have to get people back to working. You can’t go on like we’re going on,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said during Tuesday’s meeting, adding that the federal deficit has skyrocketed during the pandemic.

On ExpressNews.com: Big-footed by Gov. Greg Abbott, San Antonio panel to release its own guidelines for business reopening

The plan laid out Tuesday expands on Gov. Greg Abbott’s Open Texas plan and seeks to tailor guidelines to industries in the San Antonio area.

Abbott’s first phase of Open Texas covers retail, restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship, offices, and museums and libraries.

The San Antonio transition committee’s plan adds guidelines for manufacturing plants, construction sites, salons and spas, mass gatherings such as concerts and sporting events, schools, child care facilities, gyms and hotels.

The report also makes recommendations for cleaning protocol, hygiene techniques and what employees should do with face coverings used while they work.

For example, it says organizers of events such as concerts and NBA games should provide supplies such as hand sanitizer, tissues and face coverings for workers and attendees.

For restaurants and bars, customers should be kept at least six feet apart while they’re seated, the panel recommends.

Restaurant owners should not leave condiments, plates or silverware on tables where customers aren’t sitting and only give customers condiments if they ask for them, per the panel’s report. If the restaurant has a buffet, employees should serve the food to customers.

On ExpressNews.com: Get the latest update on coronavirus and a tracking map of U.S. cases

Business owners, the panel says, should require the use of face coverings, enforce social-distancing, conduct temperature checks on and provide hand sanitizer for workers and customers, and allow customers to pay with contactless options like Apple Pay whenever possible.

The plan calls for city and county officials to help small businesses track down certain supplies — like thermometers that don’t require touching, face coverings and hand sanitizer for customers and employees — if they’re going to reopen.

The group also pushed for city and county leaders to stand up new programs and boost existing ones aimed at providing financial relief to small businesses and adopt measures to make sure minority-owned businesses have access to capital even after the pandemic ends.

According to a survey conducted by the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, the two biggest concerns for local businesses is their financial standing and the safety and wellbeing of their employees

This is a developing story. Check back with ExpressNews.com for updates.

Joshua Fechter is a staff writer covering San Antonio government and politics. To read more from Joshua, become a subscriber. jfechter@express-news.net | Twitter: @JFreports


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