Allegheny Conference on Community Development
When will the Pittsburgh region reopen? That’s the dominating question rounding the news cycle and our conversations in the business community. But, really, it’s not a question of “when” because that time is approaching, especially as we see cases plateauing, public health policies solidifying, and – as Pennsylvania begins easing restrictions – moving parts of the Commonwealth from the red to yellow phase.
We need to ask ourselves a more pressing reopening question instead of “when,” and that’s how can we reopen broadly, stay open and help companies and individuals every step of the way?
As we enter a phased reopening of our economy, we need to realize that southwestern Pennsylvania earned this step forward by complying with the guidance of officials and experts – staying apart and staying safe. We also need to realize that the same level of commitment and discipline is essential to a safe, successful and sustainable reopening.


Readying for Reopening

I sent you a survey a few weeks ago. As I look at the results, I see a business community partially/somewhat confident in its ability to return to work and remain open, with 60% saying you’re fully expecting to be open by the end of June, and employers focused on preparing for the practicalities of quickly adapting to a new normal.
Not surprisingly, 100% of you are doing something to prepare. This includes concentrating on policies and procedures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the workplace, seeking personal protective equipment (PPE) and establishing sanitation procedures.


Reopening Realities 

Resoundingly, it seems in order to get back to business and to stay open, you will need clarity and guidance on workplace safety requirements. Less than half of the organizations responding to our survey said they are setup for developing health screening protocols. Concerns also exist over acquiring testing equipment and executing hospital-level sanitation guidelines. You told us you’ll need help in understanding and adhering to Pennsylvania’s protocol, including how to develop the right tools and procedures in accordance with those guidelines to restart.


Reopening to Stay Open

Pennsylvania’s stay at home order was put in place to prevent a surge in cases that our hospitals couldn’t handle, and we’ve accomplished this in large measure due to the commitment and dedication of our region’s people. Now it’s time to not only prepare to safely return, but also to remain back at work.
With a vaccine not likely a reality until next year, we must accept that we will resume operations with the virus still with us. Our approach to getting back to work will need to be a phased and thoughtful one that protects our most vulnerable residents and is guided by best practices and a continued adherence to the existing practices – such as social distancing, mask wearing and telecommuting – that have served us well so far. The goal, after all, isn’t just going back. It’s staying back.
To help ready our region’s businesses, workplaces and workforce, one of our top priorities at the Conference will be to provide essential information and resources needed to safely and successfully return to work and remain open. As I mentioned last week, we’re preparing to launch a toolkit with best practice protocols and guides for various industries. We will send this out to you in the coming days.  And, as we have been doing, we will continue to define new avenues to convene and communicate policies, guidance and information you need as we navigate the next phase. Most importantly, we will seek your input and partnership so we can do our best on your behalf.
As we move ahead, our team will continue working and communicating with you so when the time comes, we’ll be ready to reopen and to stay open – safely, successfully and sustainably – together.


Stefani Pashman
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