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County, City Leaders Issue Reopening Guidelines Amid Uncertainty: 'We Don't Know How The Move To Yellow Will Impact Our Cases'

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Allegheny County leaders are providing guidance for restarting the local economy.

This Friday, some businesses will begin reopening as we move into the state's "Yellow Phase" for slowing the spread of Coronavirus.

Local leaders say during this time, employers need to continue to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including social distancing and wearing masks.

"Continue to limit our trips out for essential goods and service only," Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogan said. "And if you do go out, wear a mask, avoid public places and keep at least six feet from other people."

They are urging businesses to consider staggered shifts for workers.

During a virtual briefing Tuesday morning, Mayor Bill Peduto stressed the importance of continuing telework if possible.

"Just because people can come back to work doesn't mean you have to come back to work. If you're successful with your workers and your business teleworking, please continue to telecommute," Mayor Peduto said.

"If you see a crowd in the lobby, don't go up and give everybody high fives," Peduto added. "If the elevator is crowded, wait for the next one. Keep social distancing and make sure it's part of your everyday plans as you go back to work."

The mayor says businesses, in especially busy areas of the city, like downtown or on the South Side, need a transition period to reopen.

If employees cannot telework, the county has issued these "Yellow Phase" guidelines:

• Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas frequently and continuing to regularly clean all other areas of the building(s);
• Establishing and implementing a plan in case the business is exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19;
• Preventing large groups from entering or leaving the building by staggering work start and stop times;
• Limiting the number of people in employee common areas, like locker rooms or break rooms, and ensuring these areas are cleaned frequently;
• Conducting meetings and trainings virtually; if a meeting needs to be held in person, limiting the number of employees to 10 and maintaining a physical distance of six feet;
• Making sure employees have access to soap and water to wash their hands, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes;
• Providing non-medical masks for employees to wear at all times and make it mandatory to wear masks while on the work site while working in the same area (room) as others; employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health policies;
• Making sure the facility has enough employees as applicable to follow these protocols and conduct business effectively and safely;
• Discouraging non-essential visitors from entering the business premises; and,
• Communicating these procedures to all employees to ensure that everyone knows how to be safe.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said, "Businesses that will now be conducting in-person operations need to ensure that they're following all of the guidance from the state, but – just as importantly – they need to do that in conjunction with the businesses that they share office space or a building with to ensure that we're all doing our part to physically distance."

The Allegheny County Health Department will be monitoring emergency rooms and hospitalization rates.

"Our guidance will change if we see a rapid rise in cases," Dr. Bogan said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle and other officials also joined the briefing.

"What we don't want to do is go backwards," said Doyle.

Dr. Bogan said moving into the "Yellow Phase" brings uncertainty, but the public can continue to take precautions.

"We don't know how the move to yellow will impact our cases, but the Health Department is prepared to respond to whatever may happen. Most importantly, we need to keep up the good work. If you're sick, stay home. If you have symptoms, call your primary care physician or the department's COVID-19 Hotline. ... Wash your hands frequently and clean frequently-touched services often," Dr. Bogan said.

Mayor Peduto warns any business that violates the provisions of the "yellow" phase could be putting their business in jeopardy.

The bottom line is leaders say use common sense to keep your workers and customers safe.

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