Today was Day 1 of Phase 1: the first time since mid-March that Connecticut retailers could open for business.
But merchants can’t just fling open their doors, and customers can’t just race in.
By law, shoppers must wear masks inside stores. This is to protect themselves and employees. If customers do not wear masks, a store can be shut down.
Here — thanks to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — is a Q-and-A about retail reopening.
Scroll to the end to find a list from the WDMA of stores they know are open today. Note: Some operate by personal appointment only. Check before you go — and wear your mask!
What do I do with items that are returned?
Assume returned items have been tried on. Quarantine them for 48 hours, or thoroughly steam clean prior to returning to the floor. Click here for very good specific cleaning/disinfecting information.
Can I allow customers to try on clothes and use fitting rooms?
Yes. Customers can now try on clothes. But any clothes tried on by a customer must either be quarantined for 48 hours or thoroughly steam cleaned prior to returning to the floor.
If a customer touches an item on the floor, do I need to pull it and put it in the back? If so, for how long?
There is no steadfast rule. The practice of having each customer sanitize their hands upon entering your store should help reduce the risks. Personal shopping appointments could also help, since associates would handle the items and they use hand sanitizer after each customer. Additionally, having associates handle merchandise would decrease the number of people touching each item, decreasing the potential transfer of germs.
Will UV light wands kill the virus? If so, can I return merchandise to the floor after using?
While UV light is effective and customary in clinical settings, there is currently no guidance for retailers to use UV for clearing at this point. We recommend waiting for specific governmental guidance before relying exclusively on this method of sterilization.
Where can I get hand sanitizer, gloves, wipes and cleaning supplies?
Click here for PPE suppliers. Modern Plastics in Shelton can make dividers and face shields. Contact Susan Linnane at 203-403-6672 for information. You do not need to purchase from them; this is just another option provided.
If a customer comes in without a mask, what do I do? Do they have to wear a mask if it is a private appointment?
Customers must wear a mask. Stores should have a greeter to help the monitor capacity (no more than 50%). Greeters can also have the job of enforcing and/or reminding patrons of the face mask rule. Have a backup plan if a customer forgot their mask, such as offering the customer the ability to purchase a mask, a disposable mask, or curbside pickup instead. Remember: This is your store. You have the right to remind them of the rules, and politely refuse service.
Agree with your business owner what language best suits the situation. In grocery stores the precedent for wearing masks and gloves has been widely accepted. We anticipate that people entering other types of stores will be generally compliant.
Am I required to install plexiglass at registers?
The guide says to rearrange workstations to maintain 6 feet distance between customers. and to limit movement of employees within the facility. Install physical barriers for checkout where possible. Assign employees to workstations where they remain through the workday. If you can’t keep employees more than 6 feet apart, then plexiglass also needs to be set up between employees at the cash registers.
Am I required to place markers on my floor?
You must install visual distancing markers to encourage customers to remain 6 feet apart. For instance, markers should be placed outside the store for a waiting area, inside the store near the register, as lines by the restroom and in any other area where waiting is anticipated.
What does it mean exactly to “clean” my store? What is “deep cleaning,” how is it defined and how do I instruct my cleaning personnel?
What can happen if I don’t comply with these regulations?
According to the state Department of Economic Community Development, if the first infraction is not serious you would probably get a warning. However, flagrant and continued violations have the potential to be misdemeanors. Local law enforcement will have guidelines, and executive orders can result in misdemeanors or criminal charges.
Local health inspectors will also have authority to assess health risks of stores in non-compliance, and they can revoke licenses and shut businesses. They want compliance on these issues. This is not for the stores that are trying to do the right things, but the state wants a mechanism that shows the importance of these rules. The government does not want to get this wrong and have to close again, isolate again and start all over.
Can we wear the plastic face shields instead of face masks?
No. The covering must completely cover the face and nose area.
What happens if, through contact tracing, someone who was in my store tests positive for COVID?
While not an absolute requirement, it is a good idea to figure out a way to keep track of customers shopping in your store. That way, if a customer were to test positive, you would be able to take precautions to clean your store, and monitor yourself and your employees for symptoms of the virus.
Am I allowed to take temperatures before I allow customers and / or employees in my store?
It is a good idea to take the temperatures of employees before they start work each day. You cannot legally require or force employees to have their temperatures taken, but experience in stores already open show that many employees are receptive to having their temperatures taken as they want to protect their own health and safety.
While it can be a reliable screening tool, realize that it is not 100% effective at weeding out sick employees, since many COVID carriers can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
You may also request that customers allow you to take their temperatures before entering your store. Again, legally you cannot require customers to allow you to take their temperatures, but you can strongly suggest it as part of what you want customers to do before entering your store.
How can I get a thermometer?
The State of CT has a limited number of FREE thermometers available to Connecticut businesses with 100 employees or less. They urge you to request yours ASAP, as supply is limited. Click here.
Can I sign my customer’s initials on their credit card receipt so I don’t have to deal with them signing and touching my pens?
It is not illegal for you to do this, but with no proof of a sale, a customer could argue later they did not make the purchase. A better option may be to change the setting on the credit card reader to not require a signature for any transaction. A consistent policy may be a better option.
What happens if someone in my store gets sick or feels sick?
- Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, and remaining employees should self-monitor for symptoms.
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions.
- Identify and notify those who may have had contact with the employee — including colleagues, customers, visitors, and vendors — during the 14 days prior to testing positive or first displaying symptoms.
- Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in your facility, following CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
How does my store get self-certified, and how do I get the certificate showing I met the state requirements
- Use this link to go to the Self-Certify Your Business Page. After successfully completing the self-certification requirement survey, you will be able to print out PDFs with your certificates, and other other signs you may hang to show consumers your compliance with Connecticut state requirements.
- The State is providing a 211 number for citizens concerned about businesses not following protocols. It’s best to follow the rules.
- What could I be missing as I think about reopening?
- Check out the “Operation Open Doors – Checklist” from the National Retail Federation. It has a lot of information you may not have thought about yet including supply chain issues, managing employees and detailed lists of what and how to clean.
- The state said retailers should get expedited approval from local governments to enable permits for shopping outside. How do I do that?
Westport officials have said that you may bring a table outside to use as a sales area. You do not need additional permitting, but you may not block sidewalks and you must make sure there remains a safe 6-foot clearance area for passing pedestrians. We recommend you may want to use the outdoor areas for showing items to customers, offering pre-purchased item pick up, and offering other services that will help limit store capacity and indoor activities.
- What are the 211 requirements?
- The requirement is to have a sign saying: “Call *211 with any employee and/or consumer complaint about non-compliance with state regulations. The call goes to the state Department of Economic &Community Development.
- Who can I call locally for enforcement issues?
- Call the Westport Police non-emergency number: 203-341-6000.
- How do I limit my liability from customers and employees who might contract COVID-19 at my store?
- The best thing you can do is keep detailed records of what you are doing to comply with all of the regulations. There is not an exemption from lawsuits by executive order, but hopefully in the next month our government will pass regulations protecting those that have followed the guidelines. That is why it is imperative to keep accurate and up to date records of what and how you have done your best to remain in compliance with the regulations. Additionally, the Department of Economic and Community Development has said that it recognizes that compliance in all areas all the time will be very difficult, but showing you made significant effort is all that can be expected.
- There will be so many masks and gloves thrown away. Can we recycle them?
- No. The DECD says that the masks and gloves worn by consumers are potentially contaminated and should not be recycled, but rather disposed of safely.
- Will Main Street be closed to traffic?
- The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team and Westport DMA are drafting a procedure for closing several local streets at different times. It will be presented to local officials. Local government has committed to helping make this happen soon.
- What are Connecticut state sign requirements?
- Social distancing protocols
- Cleaning and disinfection protocols
- Personal protection protocols (face masks, gloves) for customers and employees
- Employee shall stay home if sick/experience symptoms
- Customers shall not enter if they are experiencing symptoms.
- Links to posters that may be helpful to hang at your store:
- Links to other articles that may be helpful in opening decisions and preparations:
- Will Main Street be one-way or alternate day openings so there is more room for customers?
- The Re-Open Westport Advisory Committee and Town officials will be considering this option.
- Will there be a good place for employee parking so there is more parking for customers and they have more room?The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team and town officials will consider this option.
- I still have questions or a very specific question. Who can I contact?
- For specific questions related to small business, email the Joint Information Center at COVID19.JIC@ct.gov, or call the DECD small business hotline at 860-500-2333.
ADVICE TO PATRONS
General Health Guidance:
- If you feel at all unwell or have been exposed to a person who is sick or quarantining pending a test result, please do not go out in public to our retail community.
- Compliance with this primary consideration protects other customers and the workers who are restarting our economy and making it possible for all of us to enjoy shopping again.
- Remember: it’s not only you that you are protecting. By following the guidelines, you help protect our elderly citizens, those with existing health conditions and other individuals that shop after you.
PPE – Wear it. It’s the law!
- Always wear face masks or coverings over nose and mouth as you shop – either disposable or freshly laundered fabric masks/coverings. This is a legal requirement for entering retail stores.
- Stores will have hand sanitizer available to patrons at entry. Be prepared to use it each time you enter a store. Using disposable gloves is also an option, but you will still need to use sanitizer to change gloves at each store to avoid contamination.
- Expect store door greeters to monitor your mask and hand sanitizing as well as limit the number of patrons in stores to 50% capacity at any given time.
Be Prepared When You Shop:
Whenever possible, preview your needs online first so you know what you are seeking. You can call the store and ask to have the items put aside for you. Knowing SKUs, style names, colors and sizes can help speed the process considerably.
Limit your touching to items you are most likely to purchase. By limiting the number of items touched by each individual, we decrease potential contamination and also help our retailers decrease their cleaning needs and limit the inventory they need to remove from their shelves.
Enjoy shopping again, and embrace initial restrictions. If we embrace these restrictions and enable a safe and healthy reopening of businesses in Phase 1, we can expect to see more businesses reopen.
Don’t expect to browse and socialize when you shop initially. Limit the time you spend in a store. Less time in a store means lower risk of contamination to you, to employees, and to the items in the store.
Shopping – A New Experience:
Be patient and be kind. Retailers and employees are working hard to help you. Everyone is trying to adjust and adapt to this new world. Helping each other and supporting each other right now is very important. Understand that things may be slower or more difficult, but know that it is being done for everyone’s protection.
Refer to Westport Marketplace frequently (launching soon) for the latest information on the status of retailers, restaurants, salons, and more.
While stores are allowed to open May 2, many stores will choose to only continue to offer curbside pick up for prepaid items in the near term. This is okay too. Don’t forget to continue supporting the retailers you love that are not physically open yet, but have continued to find a way to get you their products.
·Stores that choose to operate in-store shopping will be following state issued rules. Expect social distancing and wear PPE.
Stores have had to certify with the state that they will follow rules in order to be open. If you are uncomfortable following the protocols, you may continue to shop online, through curbside pick up or by other shopping services.
If you feel a store is intentionally not following re-opening rules (not a mishap or a situation caused by another shopper), express your concerns by calling 211.
More changes will come. Please be flexible and understanding, and be prepared to make more adjustments. For instance, the state government may allow stores to set up outside tables to enable shopping and payments.
Be aware that retailers may change their return policies because of COVID-19 safety issues and the stringent return protocols. Know the rules before you buy.
GENERAL REOPENING INFORMATION
Where can I find the latest State rules for reopening?
Where can I find details on protocols for high risk areas. Bathrooms, elevators, stairwells, common spaces, etc.?
This has very detailed instructions for cleaning many facilities and areas considered to be high risk. Many resources are outlined toward the bottom of the page.
Where can I get advice on the layout of my office spaces, choice of furniture and screens etc.?
If I want to test my employees for antibodies, can the town provide?
The town does not provide antibody testing, but there are a number of testing sites available and some may provide antibody testing also. Testing sites can be found at the following link: http://wwhd.org/coivd-19-testing-sites/
Is my landlord responsible for the new standards of cleanliness for my building, stairwells, elevators, bathrooms etc? What constructive actions can I take if they fail to meet this responsibility?
The landlord, tenants, and citizens are all in this together. Landlord and tenant responsibilities are typically spelled out in individual leases. COVID19 does not change that relationship. Landlords are expected to meet any new cleanliness standards for the areas they are responsible for to re-open their buildings. Failure to comply could result in closure of the building.
The following stores are open as of today. Some may be by appointment only. Call ahead!
- Albe Furs
- Catherine H
- Choice Pet
- Compo Flowers
- Earth Animal
- Faye Kim
- Fleet Feet
- Great Stuff
- Kerri Rosenthal
- Le Rouge Chocolates
- Lillian August
- Organachs Farm to Skin
- Plumed Serpent
- Pottery Barn
- Sam Sloat Coins
- Savannah Bee
- She La La
- Silver Ribbon
- Soleil Toile
- Southern Tide
- Splash of Pink
- The Fred Shop
- Westport Yarns