May 21, 2020 / Mark Ames

Hope as America Reopens for Business

This is a frightening time. Businesses in communities throughout the nation are reopening—during the COVID-19 pandemic. The dangers are real; the fear and anxiety are justified. I know this personally. My sister, who works in healthcare, was quarantined after checking in a patient who later tested positive for COVID-19. A similar situation happened with my cousin, who works as a direct support professional; both didn’t see their kids for weeks. Thankfully, my sister and cousin turned out OK, but that’s not the case for everyone. The loss of life, and the psychological, emotional, and economic toll of this virus, has been devastating.

During this time, when many families are struggling to put food on their plates and keep a roof over their heads, people are reaching for hope. With the help of AIHA leaders like you, we can help guide America to safety.

As of this writing, every state is reopening for business, as government-issued stay-at-home orders are being lifted. The number of new COVID-19 infections has been decreasing in several states, but far from all, and in some areas, such as the Washington, D.C. metro region, the number of new cases still trends upward. For instance, in Maryland alone, there have been about 750 new cases every day for weeks. The persistence of infection hot spots is one reason why governors are often leaving the decisions of when and which businesses reopen to county or local government leaders.

This is our world, and people everywhere are counting on all of us to do our part to protect workers, their families, and their communities, as America gets back to work. I’ve heard from many of you, and you are inspired by this great challenge.

Just in Time: AIHA’s Back-to-Work Guidelines

By now you’ve seen them: AIHA’s back-to-work-safely guidelines, in fourteen documents. Our volunteers produced them at lightspeed, and just in time. Publications such as Bloomberg Law, Business Insider, USA Today, the Washington Examiner, and more have talked about the documents and quoted AIHA volunteer leaders. Each of the guidelines is industry-specific, free of charge, and available to everyone. They’re designed to help meet the needs of smaller and medium-sized businesses as they reopen, to protect the health and safety of workers, customers, and the public. Here’s the full list of industry-specific back-to-work guidelines:

  1. Home services (such as HVAC technicians, painters, pest control, and plumbers)
  2. Bars
  3. Business services (such as banks, notaries, and title companies)
  4. Childcare centers
  5. Construction
  6. General office settings
  7. Gyms and workout facilities
  8. Hair and nail salons
  9. Restaurants
  10. Retail stores
  11. Rideshare, taxi, limo, and other passenger drivers-for-hire
  12. Small manufacturing, repair, and maintenance shops
  13. Small and medium sports and entertainment venues
  14. Worship services and religious gatherings

You can find each of these free documents, and sign up to be alerted when new guidelines are released, at

A Call to Action

Your help is needed. One of AIHA’s goals is to get these voluntary back-to-work guidelines into the hands of employers, workers, governmental leaders, other nonprofit organizations, and stakeholders as fast as possible, to help save lives and preserve health. One of the best ways to do this is by focusing on the places where businesses and workers go for information, including the government, state Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, professional associations, other nonprofits, and local news outlets. AIHA is encouraging subject matter experts to join, provide input to, or attend councils or commissions in every state, county, and locality on reopening the economy and returning to work.

Will you help AIHA reach out to these organizations and ask them to help us raise awareness of our voluntary guidelines as business ramps up in communities throughout the nation?

If you’d like to work on this outreach and engagement project, which is focused on getting the best information into the hands of businesses, workers, and governmental leaders, please email me.

Although this is a scary time, it’s also an opportunity for industrial hygienists to demonstrate their value and raise awareness of this amazing profession on a scale we may have never seen before. People everywhere are yearning to regain a sense of normalcy. It’s an important time to be an industrial hygienist and a member of AIHA. Thank you for all you do to help keep us healthy and safe.

Mark Ames

Mark Ames is AIHA's director of government relations.


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