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Utah businesses seek to boost consumer confidence by making COVID-19 safety pledges

COVID-19 Safety Pledge
Posted at 4:08 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 20:14:48-04

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — At Elements Massage, customers wait in the parking lot until they're texted or called to come in to enforce social distancing.

In the window, a sign is posted making a pledge for hygiene and safety. Elements Massage owner Hugh Washburn came up with the idea for the South Jordan Chamber of Commerce, creating a public campaign for the suburban community to pledge to customers how seriously they are taking re-opening amid COVID-19.

Washburn said he'd hoped to get the Salt Lake County Health Department to give some kind of certification, but knows they are overwhelmed. Instead, he said, his business follows all of their guidelines and he's trying to send that message to customers.

"We’re taking this seriously. We’re putting all the precautions into place," he said.

At Elements Massage, it's appointment only, and there's a questionnaire about COVID-19 symptoms. A receptionist takes the client's temperature and they're escorted to a room for their massage where they've made changes for extra sanitation. Both customer and employees wear masks at all times and the place is frequently cleaned.

Washburn said a clear majority of his customers are pleased with the extra steps and have come back.

"People have been happy that we’re taking the precautions. They tell us that they like the new procedures, they feel safer here than going to the grocery store and other places around. They’re happy to get a massage even if that means they have to come wearing a mask," he told FOX 13.

Across the state, business organizations are trying to boost consumer confidence by prodding companies to commit to COVID-19 safety measures. The governor recently lowered the risk level for novel coronavirus for much of the state from "orange" on the color-coded scale to "yellow." It means there's a lower risk and more businesses could re-open under specific health guidelines for their industry.

"With those loosened restrictions comes heightened personal responsibility," said Derek Miller, the head of the Salt Lake Chamber and the chair of Governor Gary Herbert's COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force.

In an interview with FOX 13, Miller acknowledged consumers are still nervous. So are businesses that are trying to re-open under new health orders. The Salt Lake Chamber, which is the state's largest business organization, is launching its own campaign: "Stay Safe to Stay Open." It pushes best practices and resources for businesses seeking to land on their feet after being shut down because of the pandemic. That includes social distancing, face masks and hygiene.

"We believe that 'Stay Safe to Stay Open' is a campaign that resonates because businesses want to be open," Miller told FOX 13. "And if they want to be open in this current environment, they need to stay safe."

There are no mandates, but the practices are strongly encouraged to make customers feel more comfortable about spending their money at local businesses. The Utah State Legislature recently passed a bill providing businesses some immunity from the potential for lawsuits related to COVID-19 exposure.

As part of the Salt Lake Chamber's campaign, there's a message for business owners: Have your employees self-screen and if they're sick, don't have them come to work.

"A business should never do anything that would encourage implicitly or explicitly their employees to come to work if they’re feeling ill. Employers should also be doing screening as well, taking temperatures," Miller said.

The St. George Area Chamber of Commerce is making posters available for businesses that say "DO YOUR PART TO REDUCE COVID-19" with pictures highlighting the advice of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. It's aimed at both business and consumer.