Getting Chester County’s Businesses Prepped to Open
County’s COVID-19 Business Task Force leverages countywide partnerships to determine needs of all businesses, and ensure readiness for reopening
WEST CHESTER, PA_In less than two weeks of announcing the formation of a business task force to help re-open, repair and restore Chester County’s economy affected by COVID-19, the Commissioners have brought together a team to focus on the county’s future business needs. Members of the COVID-19 Business Task Force bring a wealth of business, economic, education and government acumen to the group and the agreed first steps are to find out what Chester County’s 15,000-plus businesses need – and need to know – and help provide it in advance of moving to the yellow phase of re-opening.
Marian Moskowitz, Chester County Commissioners’ Chair said, “Every day, we monitor our status in Chester County and weigh up the balance between the needs of our employers with the guidance of our Health Department. We are anxious for county business to resume, and through the incredible partnerships of our business task force members, we are working to prepare businesses for what they will need to start working again.
“Trying to determine the range of needs among our incredibly diverse and geographically wide-spread business community is a daunting task – especially when we are up against a tight timeline. But our nine regional chambers of commerce, our municipality representatives and our industry-specific leaders are focusing on the first steps to prepare for re-opening, and their networks ensure efficient communication to and from our thousands of businesses – large, medium and small.”
At the same time as the task force is petitioning businesses on what they need to ensure their customers and employees remain protected from the coronavirus, the business task force is creating a “toolkit” using the mitigation strategies developed by the Commonwealth. Feedback from Chester County businesses will be compared with the PA mitigation recommendations, to make sure the toolkit includes coronavirus prevention strategies that are realistic, and therefore will be followed by county businesses.
Bill Covaleski, Founder and Brewmaster, Victory Brewing Company, and Acting Chairman of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association said, “Serving the smart and loyal patrons of Chester County is an honor not to be taken lightly by any business. Customers are ready to return, but they will hold businesses to a high standard with regard to their safety and health. The COVID-19 Business Task Force provides a rich, practical resource to area businesses looking forward to swinging their doors open soon to meet and exceed our incredible community’s interests.”
Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell said, “Beginning the two-way communication with all of our employers is crucial in determining what every different type of establishment needs to start back up, so that we – and they – can be sure they are ready when the time comes.
“The questions and requests from businesses could be as straightforward as supplying personal protection equipment to assure they are safe to begin operating. Or business owners, managers and employees could have more specific questions about alternative ways to conduct their business that would allow them to safely provide more services during the defined ‘yellow’ phase.
“The advantage that we have in Chester County is that, in addition to this qualified task force, we have the Chester County Health Department. So when we receive and discuss creative ideas from employers for ways to safely reopen that are different from the traditional ways of working, then the task force can take those requests to the Health Department for review and potential sanctioning. This is what we mean by focusing on what is right for Chester County, and specifically for our employers and employees,” added Commissioner Maxwell.
Any Chester County employers who have considered different, creative ways to safely offer services to customers are encouraged to provide details of those ideas with the COVID-19 Business Task Force. Comments or questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the first step of the COVID-19 Business Task Force underway, the core team, along with the developing advisory committee, will begin measures to guide the development of Chester County’s longer term economic recovery plan.
County Commissioner Michelle Kichline noted, “Chester County plans. We plan for population growth; we plan for land preservation and urban development. We plan for ‘rainy days’, which is why we have been able to invest in so many ways to meet residents’ and employers’ needs during this crisis. Now, we are planning to strengthen our economy, post-COVID-19, through a stepped approach to reshaping and restoring Chester County."
The investments that the County Commissioners have made to fight the impact of COVID-19 include the formation of a $5 million Main Street Preservation grant program to financially support the county’s small businesses, and the program of antibody testing, which has already begun for first responders, health care workers and all members of their households.
“Through the efforts of the Chester County Health Department as well as our investments in PPE, Chester County has already met many of the Commonwealth’s benchmarks for reopening, so when we are given a date, we are ready to go,” added Kichline. “Case count is only one consideration. Right now, we provide robust case investigation and can ramp up contact tracing for early identification and handling of cluster outbreaks. We can monitor hospital capacity. We are ensuring that personal care homes, skilled nursing facilities and other congregate care settings have the right safeguards in place for employees and residents. And we have enough testing available for those with symptoms and for other target populations.
“All of this, along with the information and tools that we are giving to our employers, means that as soon as the date is identified, Chester County employers will be ready to safely move into the yellow phase of business practices.”