Utah businesses can get a ‘seal of approval’ if they commit to these steps to fight COVID-19

The Salt Lake Chamber has launched its latest strategy for making customers feel safer as they venture out to Utah businesses during the pandemic.

Unveiled to the public Thursday in collaboration with the Utah Department of Health, the chamber’s Stay Safe to Stay Open campaign offers business owners a publicly visible “seal of approval” if they pledge to stick with the latest health guidelines.

Those include daily temperature checks for workers and sending them home when they are sick, covering mouths when coughing or sneezing, stepped-up hand washing and sanitizing of commonly touched surfaces — as well as requiring face masks when employees can’t social distance on the job.

By promising to stick to these guidelines, businesses will get signs to display in their store windows and next to cash registers telling customers they are on board. They also will be included in a searchable online database, highlighting the companies that are participating.

“It’s one thing for a business to open its doors,” Derek Miller, the chamber’s president and CEO, said Thursday. “It’s another thing for the consumer to feel confident in walking through those doors.”

The program, which has been ramping up behind the scenes for weeks, is viewed as a business-targeted way of reassuring customers and employees who remain wary of infection, he said.

The program also requires pledging businesses to learn about groups at high-risk for COVID-19 such as the elderly and minority groups and to keep up with industry-specific health guidelines in the state’s plan for navigating the pandemic, known as Utah Leads Together 4.0.

Those interested can go to stayopenutah.com to take the pledge.

In a statement, Gen. Jefferson Burton, the state Health Department acting executive director, lauded Utah businesses for their a willingness to sign on to Stay Safe to Stay Open and said fighting the virus “requires vigilance from all parts of the community.”

“As important as it is for individuals to follow health guidance to protect themselves and their families,” Burton said, “it is equally as important for the businesses they visit to provide an environment they can have confidence in.”

Steve Starks, CEO for the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, said his businesses — which include assorted automobile dealerships, the Utah Jazz, Vivint SmartHome Arena and a chain of Megaplex movie theaters — were “proud to commit.”

“The safety and wellbeing of our employees and our customers is paramount,” Starks said. “We not only want to comply, but we want to provide a level of comfort for our guests.”

A recent surge in coronavirus cases has underscored the importance of protecting the public health, said Miller, but Utahns also need to engage and support the economy and job creation.

“We shouldn’t be choosing one over the other,” he said in an interview. “They are not mutually exclusive; they are mutually supportive.” Stay Safe to Stay Open, he added, “represents a balance between the two that supports businesses as they support their customers.”

The program will require pledging businesses to provide a person to contact for customers “who may have questions or even complaints,” he said

The pledge doesn’t require business to give their employees paid sick leave when they are sent home for COVID-19 symptoms, he said, though the chamber has separately encouraged employers to provide that.

“Look at some of the outbreaks that we’ve seen in workplaces,” Miller said. “It’s against your own self-interest if you’re requiring people who aren’t feeling well to come into work.”

Nor do pledging businesses have to require their customers to wear face coverings, Miller said.

“Certainly businesses can make that choice and many have and we will support them in that decision,” he added. “But whether or not every business has to require customers, that’s for elected leaders to decide.”

That point may be moot for now, at least in the short term for businesses located in and around Utah’s capital.

Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday he was inclined to grant a request by officials in Salt Lake County to allow them to require that everyone wear masks while in public. He will announce his decision on Friday. The Republican governor remains opposed, however, a statewide mandate on wearing masks, preferring instead to strongly encourage residents to do so out of a sense of duty to protect others.

If participation is widespread, the Stay Safe to Stay Open campaign has potential to make the use of masks more common in commercial settings across the state, particularly where workers operate in close areas and in customer-facing settings where keeping six feet or more part is not feasible.

Miller added that businesses can now tap into $5 million set aside by the Utah Legislature for grants to help them purchase personal protective equipment, as well as pay for workplace redesigns, signs and technology to enable working from home.