AMESBURY — Local businesses will need to police their own pandemic response and be willing to adapt quickly when they reopen, according to the mayor.
Gov. Charlie Baker released his four-phase reopening plan for the state economy earlier this week. Baker's plan allows nonessential retail businesses to open for curbside and delivery service beginning Monday. Air salons, pet groomers and car washes may also reopen.
Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove and city Community and Economic Development Director Angela Cleveland took part in a Facebook Live broadcast from City Hall auditorium Tuesday to give business owners and residents a more local take on Baker's plan.
Gove said she understands why Baker's process for reopening is going to roll out in a slow, but steady manner.
"They have to draw a line somewhere, they just can't open the floodgates," she said.
Business owners will need to adapt to new state safety protocols, such as limiting interaction between employees and customers; developing and implementing a detailed cleaning schedule; and purchasing and maintaining necessary cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment when they reopen.
Gove said the state will not require businesses to submit to an inspection before opening, but they must complete and post a checklist of necessary steps they have taken.
"There really is a level of self-responsibility in it and we are all going to see how that goes," Gove said.
The mayor said business owners are just as concerned about COVID-19 as their potential customers.
"There is a shared sense of fear," Gove said. "They are afraid of what will happen if their employee gets it. They are afraid if someone who came in to shop gets it. So I really do hope there is a level of self-compliance with this for everyone's benefit. We are relying on each other to really self-police and keep that in mind."
The mayor directed residents and business owners to the city's new Back to Business Hub website at www.amesburyma.gov/community-economic-development/amesbury-back-to-business.
Cleveland said the city has been hearing from many local business owners who said they have been overwhelmed by the requirements.
"There are a lot of different things that they will need to do, like distancing themselves and potentially changing after every client," Cleveland said. "These are things that are going to take a lot of time, but also be very wasteful. Hopefully, there is going to be more discussion about how this is increasing waste and what this looks like for our communities, especially now that the (plastic bag) ban was passed in the city."
Local business owners have also mentioned their concerns about financial and technical support, according to Cleveland.
"The (federal) Economic Development Administration has a large pot of money, specifically for each region," Cleveland said. "Our region is going to get about $10 million, split up among Philadelphia and all the way up to Maine. But there is quite a bit of money there for local governments and businesses."
Cleveland added that law offices are becoming busier.
"Business attorneys have been very busy," she said. "There are going to be lawsuits around COVID cases. So these are things that you should start taking seriously."
Gove said City Hall will remain closed to the public "for at least another few weeks" but residents can still do most of their city business online.
"We haven't seen many of you for a really long time and we really miss you," Cleveland said.
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.