Managing public spaces in the ‘new normal’

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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, public health and safety have been at the forefront of conversations and decisions regarding public spaces. With flu season on the horizon and many schools, businesses and other public spaces reopening, this is a critical time. As industries adapt their day-to-day operations and work toward a sense of normalcy while navigating a pandemic, we must continue to do all we can to keep our communities safe and healthy.

Put candidly, as public spaces reopen and capacities increase, there will continue to be risks to public health. In order to combat these risks and allow for continued safe reopenings, we must support schools, theaters, stadiums and other public spaces with best practices in mitigating the spread of viruses and other germs that make people sick. In all public settings, a key element for success is the preparedness and actions of facilities and environmental health and safety staff.

Keeping people safe in a public venue is more than possible, and subject matter experts from all industries have come together in providing the proven means and methods of mitigating the risks. The continued, and frequently updated, recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should remain the guideline for health and safety on all fronts. These guidelines include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Following appropriate social distancing methods and designing your space to allow for 6 feet between others whenever possible.
  • Requiring all staff, customers, students and whoever is utilizing the public space to mask up and follow proper handwashing protocols.
  • Working with your facilities and environmental health and safety staff to determine how frequently your high-traffic areas should be cleaned and disinfected. This includes common surfaces such as public seating, which is a critical place to disinfect appropriately.
  • Ensuring all indoor spaces are properly ventilated.

Facility managers also should be aware that proactively communicating your cleaning and disinfecting protocol with others that will be within the public space — such as a movie theater or university stadium — will be key to making your guests feel confident that your building is safe to be in. Now is the time to have that dialogue and remain consistent with that communication so that venue attendees are aware of the extra steps being taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and other germs that could harm them. Customers want to understand how operations staff are sanitizing all areas of the facility, and additional measures that will become the new normal, such as applying disinfect after custodial crews finish cleaning venues post-events.

All businesses, schools, universities and public spaces in general should consider posting their dedicated COVID-19 cleaning and disinfecting procedures via accessible platforms such as websites, social media pages, blogs, e-newsletters, and other methods used to communicate with patrons.

While this continues to be a challenging time for all of us, these measures and precautions will only continue to improve the reopening and managing of public spaces, while effectively mitigating the current risk at hand.

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