Grand Strand industry leaders offered advice to local businesses Monday about how to operate as concerns over coronavirus continue to mount.
“This is unprecedented,” said Wendy McCrackin, executive director of human resources with Horry Telephone Cooperative, at a forum held at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are all getting through this together for the first time.”
Many of the suggestions provided at the forum have already been drilled home by health officials in recent weeks as more cases of the virus have been reported.
Wash hands thoroughly. Maintain social distancing and good cough etiquette. Don’t go to work if you’re sick. Report any possible exposure to the virus. Make sure surfaces are clean and sanitized.
As far as recommendations for businesses specifically, some suggestions are to look at adjusting attendance policies and making them more flexible, and suspending procedures that might seem punitive.
Some options for restaurants are offering curbside pickup and delivery.
HTC has limited vendor access and started holding conference calls rather than in-person meetings.
The cooperative has also looked at remote workstations and identifying employees in place to use them, but McCrackin acknowledged a business such as HTC requires face-to-face interaction with customers to a degree.
She added employers have the right to send a worker showing symptoms home or make them utilize paid time off.
McCrackin advocates stocking up on necessary items such as cleaning supplies and considering containment protocols.
Workplaces may also want to consider different methods of greeting one another.
Panelists also emphasized good hygiene, avoiding any unnecessary touching and staying away from large gatherings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended not holding gatherings of 50 people or more over the next eight weeks, and President Donald Trump on Monday advised steering clear of gatherings with more than 10 people and not eating at restaurants, according to media reports.
Dr. Philip Dulberger, executive vice president and chief physician executive for Tidelands Health, stressed the need to stay calm, and he encourages taking breaks from both media and social media.
“There’s a lot of fanfare,” he said, “as there should be.”
Those heading to hospitals with coronavirus symptoms are urged to call hospitals in advance.
For those returning to work, establishments should have a process where they can vet the employee and determine risk.
Karen Riordan, president and CEO of the chamber, said during the past week the tourism industry has taken a hit, highlighting cancelations of events like sports tournaments.
In recent days, many businesses seemingly haven’t had as much patronage as they usually would this time of the year.
While there are businesses in the area that remain open, others have closed temporarily.
There are tourists in the area, Riordan said, some who have headed to the Strand and planned on staying for many months.
Some visitors are making plans to return home, while others are still deciding whether to stay.
The chamber itself has cancelled its events through the end of the month and has had limited staff members at its visitor centers. Staff members no longer hand out visitor guides to those getting off planes at the city’s international airport.
Calling the current situation a “health hurricane,” city of Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea noted beaches in the Miami, Florida, area have shut down, and that Charleston has imposed restrictions for gatherings and eateries.
He said Myrtle Beach officials have had discussions about such rules, though nothing has been decided yet.
Along with making sure one keeps up to date with accurate information sources, Kruea also champions businesses relaxing customer return policies, noting the city has been refunding money to organizers who have cancelled events.
Be mindful of one’s staff, he added.
“We will be shaping the future of Myrtle Beach for the rest of this year, probably for the next couple of years, based on how we as a community respond to this issue,” he said.
On Monday, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported the state’s first death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, out of Lexington County.
So far, there have been three confirmed cases of the disease reported in Horry County.