Coronavirus pandemic brings a new normal

Monday June 8 Miami-Dade County issued its 248 page Guidelines on The New Normal with rules for reopening commercial establishments.

Florida’s Governor reopening orders applied to 64 counties but not the three hardest hit by the coronavirus – Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. State orders opened bars, bowling alleys and concert halls on Friday June 5 as Phase 2 of a three step plan.

Miami-Dade County instituted a five stage color-coded system for reopening nonessential businesses with rules tailored to each category designed to reduce coronavirus risk.

The system goes from stringent red through orange, yellow, and green to blue as the most lenient commercial opening phase. Blue in the New Normal still encourages businesses to enforce social distancing and masking.

The County repeatedly mphasized that although businesses were permitted to open under later stages, no business was required to be open. County rules for all establishments state “you may wish to enforce more stringent guidelines or procedures”. Throughout the pandemic County mayors and leaders said businesses open at their own risk because of potential liability claims if public safety is compromised. 

Preliminary County park reopenings were under the orange phase. Strict capacity limits, complete social distancing, and facial coverings were required and enforced. That County Order was issued April 27 for early May openings

including limited opening of marinas, boat launches and docks allowed as of April 29.

The yellow stage began May 18 for a few non-essential businesses. The Governor issued a May 14 order allowing Miami-Dade to go to Phase 1 of Florida’s “plan for recovery”. The County released a handbook of guidelines the next day under amended Order 23-20. The Order expressly listed establishments remaining closed such as movies, casinos, summer camps and banquet halls.

Yellow phase openings stated community officials could return to more restrictive measures if there was a surge in COVID cases.

Each category of color-coded openings included pages of rules per business in five areas of protection. Rules were sorted by business-specific actions under workforce protection, employee protection, non-employee protection, business process adaptations, employer-led public health interventions and industry-wide safeguards.

The original County order was further amended on May 31 to allow pools to reopen with enforced restrictions as well as banquet halls at fifty percent capacity.

Another amended order on June 4 preceded release of the definitive County guide The New Normal on Monday. It also permitted an additional 105 nonessential commercial establishments to open in Yellow, Green and Blue phases.

The Guide provides reopening rules for 390 commercial categories. About 275 businesses still remain in the red closure phase. All color categories require forms of social distancing and facial coverings.

While the 77 businesses opened under the yellow code have strict capacity requirements, the green code has less restrictive capacity rules. Monday’s effective green phase openings applied to seven types of commercial businesses: bars, gyms, massage parlors, movies, tattoo parlors, bowling alleys, and summer camps.

Monday’s announcement permitted twenty-one blue phase operations to reopen such as schools, colleges, amusement parks and arcades, hotels and some spectator sports.

General guidelines for reopening overlap with requirements for each type of business category in The New Normal document.

For instance, retail establishments are asked to establish a single entrance point and create one-way circulation paths, install many hand sanitizers, space customers out every six feet, install Plexiglas sneeze guards and use pin pads at checkouts, limit staff and customers to 50 percent of occupancy, sanitize baskets after each service, eliminate car valet services, upgrade HVAC filters, and clean public restrooms once every two hours. The rules include placement, cleaning, and emptying of trash containers. There are special rules for elevators such as indicated placements for standing at a distance thus limiting capacity to four passengers.

Shopping centers, office spaces, warehouses, and various sales outlets follow these same rules with a few situation-specific variations.

Guidance also requires new personnel training in COVID protocols and posting CDC signage to encourage self-enforcement. Employees temperatures are screened daily upon arrival and high risk employees are evaluated for testing under the New Normal. A limited attempt is made at contact tracing under industry-wide safeguards by posting email contact lists for customers and making rules for disclosure of infections.

In addition to the general guidelines for retail establishments, arts and culture

venues are asked to remove seating if possible or enforce distancing with signals. Sign-in stations with health questionnaires are to be used to encourage reporting symptoms. Group tours are suspended as are interactive exhibits, HVAC filters are cited for upgrades, and special hours for senior citizens are encouraged.

The New Normal posts eleven packed pages of rules for childcare facilities and summer camps with special rules geared to children’s ages and type of activity such as sports camps.

With the announcement of The New Normal, officials ended the County curfew on Monday. Beaches are set to reopen Wednesday June 10 with some restrictions – no coolers unless shared with the same household. Dog parks are open but one amendment is that dogs must remain leashed.

Anti-COVID rules had some good results. Personal grooming salons (open the last week of May) and dentist offices (a yellow opening on Monday) are required to discard old magazines in the waiting area because they cannot be disinfected.

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