▶️ Once vax target is met, changes in businesses won’t happen overnight

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As the state approaches the 70% vaccination rate target, Oregon OSHA says it will lift many health and safety protocols imposed on businesses during the pandemic.

So, how quickly might those additional safety requirements—such as restaurant outdoor seating and enhanced cleaning — go away?

Drive through town and you will see all kinds of outdoor seating arrangements, including in the public right way, the city of Bend made to help businesses survive COVID restrictions.

And the changes helped keep businesses open.

In a survey, some restaurants said up to 70% of their revenue during the pandemic came through outdoor seating.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll flip the switch and go back overnight but I think that’s the one signal we are waiting for saying let’s start putting signs back where they normally are. Or putting seats back on sidewalks or back in buildings because, until then, there’s still capacity restrictions for businesses around town and that’s what we are trying to help with,” said Ben Hemson, City of Bend Business Advocate.

Hemson said businesses all over Bend increased outdoor capacity by installing seating in rights-of-way or in private parking lots.

While I was talking to businesses about outdoor seating, I heard a discussion of a proposal by merchants to make Minnesota Avenue a promenade.

Grocery stores that implemented employee temperature checks, required gloves and face masks, enhanced cleaning, social distancing and frequent hand washing also are not in a rush to discontinue the safety protocols.

“For now, it’s just easier to stick with what we’ve been doing and continue on sanitizing plastic dividers, things like that are pretty nonobtrusive,” said Aaron Price, Food 4 Less Store Director. “People like to see people out there cleaning, sanitizing and little extra steps that. If they are not intrusive to people, we will definitely keep on doing them.”

Price said Food 4 Less invested a significant amount of money in plexiglass barriers at checkout stands, a hot water hand washing sink at the front entrance, on sanitizers for enhanced cleaning of high touch surfaces and hired additional staff to clean the store.

Due to the size of the store, the building never exceeded capacity restrictions, he said.

Price said he won’t change procedures until there is consistent messaging from all levels of government that it is okay to do so.

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