Editorial: Employers, workers must act responsibly as economy restarts

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Gov. Eric Holcomb told companies this week to get ready to go back to work.

No. He hasn’t set a date for when restaurants, retailers and offices will reopen. But that day is coming—maybe as soon as early May.

That’s a relief for many businesses that have been crippled by city and state stay-at-home orders. But the move comes with tremendous responsibility—for business owners, managers and workers.

No one quite knows how this reopening of the economy will go—or, frankly, the best way to make it happen. So business owners must plan carefully, always with an eye to balancing the safety of workers and customers with the need for our economy to get moving again.

Does that mean business leaders are responsible for ensuring that no one gets sick? Absolutely not. It is not possible to reopen the economy without risk.

But it is possible to minimize risk by taking steps to spread out workers, create barriers where needed, ask or even require employees to wear masks, and provide aggressive cleaning services and supplies.

Our Page 1 stories this week detail a number of steps employers are implementing. One of our favorites is taping directional signs on the floor so workers are walking in one direction to keep them from passing each other in the hall.

Perhaps even more important, employers need to be flexible with those workers who are at particular risk should they contract the virus. If those workers can do their jobs at home, they should probably stay there for now. And that might be true of even more employees—even those who don’t seem at risk—if offices or manufacturing plants are too crowded to have everyone there at once.

Flexibility will be key as well for parents whose kids are home from school or day care, who won’t be able to go to their usual summer camps, or whose grandparents aren’t available to watch them because they’re responsibly social distancing.

Workers will shoulder tremendous responsibility as well.

Don’t come to work if you’re not feeling well. Just don’t.

Wear a mask if you are going to be in close contact with others. Self-quarantine if someone in your family or someone you’ve been close to is sick. Wash your hands. Use hand sanitizer. Try not to touch things you don’t need to touch.

Give your colleagues space.

By working together—by being careful and respectful of others—we can make this transition as safe as possible. And that’s important.

If reopening doesn’t go well, if cases and hospitalizations jump significantly, state and local officials might have little choice but to tell everyone to go home again. That would be not only an enormous blow to the economy but a huge hit to our collective psyche.•


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