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Businesses statewide scramble to put plans in place to reopen Monday

Callan Gray
Updated: April 24, 2020 05:57 PM
Created: April 24, 2020 05:21 PM

Thousands of businesses across Minnesota are preparing to reopen on Monday. Gov. Tim Walz has issued an executive order that will allow manufacturing, industrial and office employees to return to work.

“This is really a limited first step for us in safely reopening businesses,” said Kevin McKinnon, deputy commissioner with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

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State officials laid out the rules and answered questions during a webinar on Friday.

According to McKinnon, the executive order will allow about 20,000 businesses to reopen, affecting 80,000 to 100,000 workers.

“The first thing we recommend is those that can work at home and can continue to telework, we really encourage that as much as possible,” said McKinnon.

Business owners are also required to create a COVID-19 preparedness plan and post it throughout the workplace, in addition to providing training to employees. It must outline how they will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines, including social distancing, employee hygiene and sanitization.

It also requires health screenings to prevent sick employees from entering the workplace, however, it’s not mandatory to take employees’ temperatures.

“If they come to work and say right away they're ill, they should go home,” said Ellen Paine, with the Department of Health. “If they become ill during the day, they should go home.”

According to the Department of Labor and Industry, the preparedness plans do not need to be submitted to the state for approval but must be made available upon request.

Employees who contract COVID-19 while on the job should file a worker's compensation claim, according to state officials. If an employee doesn’t feel safe returning to work, they should raise those concerns with their employer before reaching out to OSHA.

Companies can take disciplinary action if an employee doesn’t follow the new regulations and creates a health and safety concern, according to state officials.

Changes are already underway at Brickmania in northeast Minneapolis, where about 30 employees are expected to return to the warehouse.

“Starting Monday, you’ll have to fill out a questionnaire about your health,” said Dan Siskind, the owner. “Once we’re able to do temperature screening we will actually be doing that daily.”

There’s a sanitation station right at the entrance.

He’s also cordoned off 20-foot, square workspaces where his employees will assemble Lego kits to ship around the country.

“You will never be within six feet of the other person even if they were at the edge of theirs,” said Siskind.

He said the governor's executive order accelerated his plans.

“We were really surprised,” he said. “Someone actually called me halfway through and told me to turn (Thursday's briefing) on because we were preparing for two weeks from now to be able to bring employees back.”

They’ve seen a boost in orders since the crisis started. Right now, his employees are working from home. He said the executive order will make it easier logistically to complete the online requests.

“I'm really grateful,” said Siskind. “I think it's a good move as far as we are able to be in a position where we're able to maintain social distancing.”


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