Small businesses navigate ever changing COVID-19 regulations
Navigating ever-changing coronavirus reality comes with a number of risks, from financial hardship to offending customers to straining workers.
For a brief moment this summer, it seemed like small businesses might be getting a break from the relentless onslaught of the pandemic. More Americans, many of them vaccinated, flocked to restaurants and stores without needing to mask up or socially distance.
But then came a surge in cases due to the delta variant, a push for vaccine mandates and a reluctant return to more COVID-19 precautions. Now, small business owners are left trying to strike a balance between staying safe and getting back to being fully open.
Navigating ever-changing coronavirus reality comes with a number of risks, from financial hardship to offending customers to straining workers. Those challenges could intensify as winter approaches and outdoor alternatives become limited. Still, small business owners say the whiplash is worth it to keep customers and employees as safe as possible.
“Just weeks ago, small business owners hoped that a return to normalcy would help jump start our recovery,” said Jessica Johnson-Cope, Chair of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices National Leadership Council and owner of a small business herself, Johnson Security Bureau in New York.
Although safety is the priority for everyone, the changes can be draining for owners and staff alike. Jennifer Williams, founder and CEO of closet organization company the Saint Louis Closet Co., said the company scrambled at first to implement a COVID-19 plan, including masking and increased sanitization.
“We don’t have the option to ‘work from home,’ our business happens in our manufacturing plant and in our client’s homes, so we had to adjust quickly at the onset of the pandemic with Covid precautions,” she said.
She nixed the mask requirement July 1, after her staff was fully vaccinated, COVID-19 cases were declining and the CDC recommendations changed. But that was short-lived.
In early August, Missouri was one of the top three states of coronavirus cases. Williams re-implemented the mask mandate.
Williams’ staffers can spend up to eight hours a day in a mask installing closet organizing systems in a customer’s home. “The mental drain on employees has been extreme,” Williams said.