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Will Businesses Really Protect You From COVID-19?

Are Businesses Really Prioritizing Customer Health?

With more than 7.5 million businesses at risk of closing due to COVID-19 lockdowns, it is no surprise that many companies are putting out ads telling customers it is still safe to visit their locations. Do protective measures like social distancing markers and employees wearing masks really work? Here are some important things to know about COVID-19 spreading at businesses.

How Important Is Social Distancing?

Almost every business claiming to protect its patrons from COVID-19 transmission focuses on social distancing. This is the idea of maintaining a 6-foot barrier between individuals, which makes it harder for infected COVID-19 droplets to travel from person to person. There are a variety of ways businesses are enacting social distancing. Some have markers on the ground at checkout to keep queued customers farther away from each other. You may also notice some stores turning aisles into one-way lanes or some restaurants moving tables farther apart. Furthermore, businesses have to comply with Pennsylvania regulations about operating by appointment only or operating at reduced capacity. The primary spread of the virus is from person to person, so social distancing is very effective. Any businesses that are not following social distancing guidelines may actually be breaking local or state laws. However, social distancing is somewhat hindered by the fact that it relies so much on customers behaving properly. Businesses can provide guidelines, but they cannot guarantee that someone else will not get too close to you. All they can do is ask a customer to leave when they are not social distancing. Ultimately, a business may face consequences for encouraging customers to disregard social distancing, but it is not automatically responsible for the poor behavior of other customers.

How Much Sanitization Should Businesses Do?

CDC guidance states that the virus does not spread as easily through touching contaminated surfaces, but it is still a possibility. Therefore, it is very important for businesses to regularly clean surfaces and items that others touch. First of all, they need to sanitize things like shelves, door handles, card readers, and other fixtures patrons regularly come into contact with. Many businesses also have items like pens, shopping carts, and menus that multiple people touch in a day. Since there is a possibility of the virus spreading through touch, these items should be handled with care. In many cities, business owners are being encouraged to switch to disposable options like paper menus. For items that are not single-use, basic sanitization is recommended. Unfortunately, many businesses are not bothering with these preventative measures because they are time-consuming and not legally required. To effectively sanitize something, it must be thoroughly wet down with bleach or another sanitizing solution. Therefore, just swiping the same grimy rag over a handle might not be enough to remove COVID-19 particles. Due to the lack of legal regulations for cleaning or disposing of shared items, this is one of the main ways businesses are failing to protect their customers. Companies that do not take the time to wipe down grocery cart handles with a bleach solution or separate used pens from fresh ones are putting their customers at risk. If an infected person coughs on one of these objects, someone else could get coronavirus from using them.

Should Businesses Require Employees to Wear Masks?

Most businesses are at least doing basic sanitization and social distancing, but mask wearing is up for debate. There is a lot of confusion surrounding whether or not masks are a legal requirement for COVID-19 prevention. At one point, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted an order saying residents were expected to wear masks but then mentioned those without masks would not face legal sanctions. Essentially, mask wearing is left entirely up to the discretion of the business. This means that many companies are still telling their employees not to wear any sort of mask while on the clock. Companies that do not allow mask wearing are putting the public at risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released statements saying masks can help reduce COVID-19 spread. Of course, surgical masks provide the most protection, but even a basic cloth mask can be beneficial. These masks can keep businesses from spreading coronavirus to at-risk customers. They reduce the number of COVID-19 particles that exit the body when a person breathes or speaks, so patrons are less likely to come into contact with them.

Are Businesses Really Doing What They Say They Are?

As you can see, there are recommended practices for how a company can take care of its customers. However, many people worry that an unethical business might claim to follow sanitization and other health care procedures but actually ignore these important measures. So far, this does not seem to be actually happening much. In most places, customers have been keeping an eye on businesses and "outing" them on social media if they are not actually practicing what they preach. Most companies know it is in their best interests to provide the safety measures customers prefer. However, it is always possible that a fraudulent business might be cutting corners. There is also a risk of employees not getting proper COVID prevention training. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant whenever you enter a place of business. If it seems like a company is not being safe, you may want to go elsewhere.

Can a Business Be Held Liable for COVID-19 Transmission?

Ideally, a business would follow all recommended health measures, but it is true that many are skipping safety precautions. Things like masks, which are advised but not required, may not be used at some companies. What should you do if you visit one of these places of business and end up getting coronavirus? This is a question that many Allentown personal injury lawyers have been considering lately. Legally, a business can be held liable if it knows of a danger, does not take reasonable steps to protect customers, and a patron is injured. With COVID-19 definitely counting as a danger businesses should be aware of, this means that a court may hold a company liable for patrons getting sick on its property after the firm refused to follow coronavirus prevention measures. You could potentially sue and win compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This all might seem fairly straightforward, but keep in mind that actually winning a case might be more difficult. In most cases, you would need to show beyond a doubt that you caught COVID-19 directly from the business. Since the virus is so widespread, this could be the trickiest part of any case. COVID-19 personal injury cases will most likely be complex, so you need a talented lawyer on your side. At Metzger & Kleiner, we have years of experience working as Allentown personal injury lawyers. We are still working during the pandemic, making sure all of our clients get the care they deserve. You can arrange a remote meeting with us through video call, phone call, or email so that you get information while staying safe at home. Call us at (610) 435-7400 if you're in the Lehigh Valley to schedule a consultation today.

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