In yet another curveball from the worldwide pandemic, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused renewed alarm among small business owners across the United States. After being shut down due to COVID-19 cases caused by the original strain, many business owners have become concerned over what the Delta variant could mean for them.
Since the contagious Delta variant has appeared to be capable of evading some of the immunity gained by Americans who either had the virus already or who have received a COVID-19 vaccination, it has become yet another threat for business owners and entrepreneurs to deal with.
While the COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant appear to potentially be peaking, this does not mean small business owners are out of the woods yet. Fortunately, most states have only reintroduced certain mask mandates, avoiding mandating the full closure of businesses like gyms, restaurants, and other places of public gathering. These lockdowns of last year were devastating for thousands of small businesses, and odds are many of them would not be able to survive another.
That said, there are still a number of steps your small business can take to minimize the impact of the variant and keep your business up and running. In this article, we’ll discuss what exactly the Delta variant is – and what it means for future waves of the virus – as well as how your business can take important precautions.
What is the Delta Variant?
At this time, there are a number of variants of the COVID-19 virus, including variants referred to as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Of these variants, the Delta variant has been labeled by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of its “variants of concern.”
Since the COVID-19 virus is capable of spreading so quickly, it means the virus has been able to mutate quickly as well. While there are thousands of variants around the world of the virus already, the vast majority of these do not change the behavior of the virus. What sets the Delta variant apart is that it has a mutation in the virus’ spike protein, which is what allows the virus to break into cells within the body and infect them.
The Delta variant, which was first identified in October of 2020 in India, has been in the United States since at least March of 2021. At this point in time, it has become the most contagious of the variants of the COVID-19 virus.
How Can Businesses Deal with the Delta Variant?
Maintain Social Distancing Standards
One of the key measures businesses can take is maintaining social distancing standards. In restaurants that means continuing to keep tables a proper distance apart and in offices that means continuing to socially distance workstations. Remember, you don’t want an outbreak of COVID-19 in your workplace, since this will only further impede your business’ ability to operate successfully, especially if a large portion of your staff comes down with the virus.
Obviously, you can’t control every move and action of your employees, however, you can remind them and make recommendations. For example, gently remind them to keep an eye on how they are feeling – let them know it’s ok if they work from home if they have, for example, a sore throat or a runny nose. While these symptoms don’t mean that you definitely have COVID-19 – after all, many illnesses and even allergies can cause many of the early symptoms of COVID-19 – it is always best to lean on the side of caution. Health care is super important right now, so remind your employees to take care of themselves.
Continue to Offer Work from Home Options
Fortunately, the Delta variant has not impacted the entire United States and has mostly hit in waves in different areas. This means that if you are in an area where case counts haven’t been as high, you don’t have to be as strict and stringent in your approach.
However, if you are in an area where the case counts have really spiked, consider offering work from home options for a short period of time until the wave subsides. This is not an option for all businesses obviously – after all restaurant servers can’t work from home – however, it can be a good idea for businesses where it is a possibility.
Remote work itself can still be very productive and a great option if you are concerned about the Delta variant and the impact it is having in your area. If your business has yet to reopen its physical office, you might even consider delaying your reopening for a month if you are in an area where the spread of COVID-19 has spiked.
Recommend and Require Masks if Necessary
Again, because the Delta variant has impacted different areas at varying extremes, masking might not be necessary for your area or in your office. However, mask mandates and recommendations are still an option if you are in an area of high transmission.
At this time, the CDC is continuing to recommend that all unvaccinated individuals wear masks when they are indoors with others. Meanwhile, a number of localities have re-implemented mask mandates for restaurants and other places of public gathering. So, be sure to try to follow the guidelines given out to the best of your ability.
Encourage Your Employees to Get Tested
COVID-19 tests are still widely available and accessible for Americans across the nation, so don’t forget about them. Encourage your employees to get tested if they don’t feel well or are showing signs or symptoms of the virus. Let them know that they won’t be docked hours or penalized in any way for deciding to go get tested.
Additionally, given that we’re wrapping up the summer months and heading into fall, many employees may be traveling in the coming weeks to different states. If they are going to areas where the Delta variant is currently at its peak, it may be a good idea to ask them to get tested before returning to the office. That way, you can make sure they don’t bring anything back with them to the office.
Consider Vaccination Mandates Carefully
So far, the COVID-19 vaccines that have been offered to Americans (specifically the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines) appear to be effective against the Delta variant. Meanwhile, vaccination rates have begun to lag as the United States attempts to convince more reluctant Americans that getting the vaccine is a good idea.
As an employer, you can mandate the vaccine for your employees, though many employers remain hesitant about doing so. This is certainly understandable, especially in smaller workplaces where you interact with your employees each and every day. Many employers don’t want to feel responsible for forcing long-time, loyal employees into doing things they are uncomfortable with. That said, you might consider scheduling a meeting or carving out time to discuss how your employees feel about the vaccination. If you feel getting vaccinated is important, let your employees know why and provide them with the facts and data surrounding the vaccine which you believe makes vaccination important. Persuading reluctant employees to get the vaccine will go a lot further in maintaining a positive workplace atmosphere than mandates.
That said, a vaccine mandate may be something that is necessary for your business or which you feel is important given the circumstances. So, it remains an option that you can utilize.
Track Exposure and Case Counts
Knowledge is power and staying up to date on the local case counts of COVID-19 is incredibly important. You may be in a hot spot for the virus right now and now even realize it. To avoid this, make sure you are staying informed about what’s going on in your local community and area.
Secondly, you should try to track exposure, especially if you have a larger company. For example, if an employee comes down with the virus, try to identify who they came in contact with. You can then recommend they get tested and that they work from home for a few days. This way, if they come down with the virus as well, they don’t expose other employees to the virus.
Tracking exposure can be difficult, but it could make a world of difference, especially if you work in a closed environment where you are not requiring masks. Proactive exposure tracking can help minimize the potential impact of an employee coming to work with the virus.
Stay Up to Date with Public Health Announcements
The CDC continues to release new guidance as they monitor the COVID-19 virus and its impact on communities across the country. There are currently thousands of active studies taking place across the world in relation to the virus as well. As such, you should continue to stay up to date with the latest news and recommendations regarding the virus. Many of the guidelines and recommendations have changed since the pandemic began and continue to evolve as scientists learn more about the nature of the virus and its transmission. You don’t want to miss any important updates.
Be Clear About Your Expectations to Employees
Nobody likes to be in limbo regarding what they are expected to do, and the same goes for employees and how they are supposed to deal with the Delta variant. Whatever guidelines you are seeking to put in place for your employees, be clear in your communication of them to your employees. If you expect mask-wearing in certain areas of the office or at all times, let your employees known plain and simple in a company-wide email. This is already a challenging time with a lot of uncertainty and variables – don’t make your business’s rules regarding the virus one of these uncertainties. Unclear expectations will just be another disruption that your business will have to address.
Communicate Your Concerns with Your Employees
Keeping your employees on the same page with you and the rest of your business’ leadership is critical. Let them know what you are thinking and get the answers to questions they may have as soon as possible (though don’t rush so fast that you are unable to carefully consider them).
Even more important, you should consider sending out weekly emails regarding the virus and other company-relevant information and what your thoughts are. While you can’t control what your employees do during their free time outside of work, you can keep them up to date on what’s happening in the world and what your resulting opinions are. For example, it is entirely possible that you are in a Delta variant hotspot and that some of your employees don’t realize it. They are busy with their jobs and their families, and many people – through no fault of their own – don’t have the time to stay up to date on all the latest happening. If you send out a company-wide email letting them know what the situation is and how your company is responding to it, there’s a good chance they will adjust their behavior as well. Maybe they didn’t realize how high the case count in the area is, so now they are going to skip an upcoming event that consisted of a large gathering of people.
Your employees are smart and can make their own decisions – try to help them by giving them the information they need to make the best decisions.
Can We Expect Another Coronavirus Variant?
As noted, there are currently thousands of COVID-19 variants, however, only some of them are considered “variants of interest” by the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). That said, it is entirely possible that the United States is hit with another variant with the ability to have an impact similar to that of the Delta variant.
Currently, The Who is monitoring the lambda variant as a variant of interest, however, the CDC has yet to do the same. The lambda variant has been found in the United States in California after appearing originally in South America. However, while experts believe the variant may be more infectious than the original COVID-19 virus, there is currently no evidence supporting the idea that it is as infectious as the Delta variant.
Additional Funding Options for Businesses Impacted by Delta Variant Restrictions
With the conclusion of the PPP program, the COVID-19-related funding options are becoming more and more scarce. Small businesses across the nation are having to rely on more traditional loans.
Currently, the SBA is offering their EIDL loan for businesses impacted by the virus, and they recently increased the maximum loan amount from $500,000 to $2 million – a very large increase indeed!
In addition to the SBA loans available, small businesses can also seek alternative lending options in the form of more traditional loans from brick-and-mortar banks as well as loans from alternative lenders. While these terms will not be like those of the PPP loans, they are still a good option for businesses that are in a cash crunch and need funding now.
The Delta variant has certainly imposed additional trials on the United States’ small business community. However, now that we are over a year into this pandemic, businesses are far better equipped to deal with its impact than when the first COVID-19 cases began appearing. Using the proper procedures and methods, you can help minimize the impact of the Delta variant on your business.
As always, each business and its needs are unique and planning is critical, so be sure to take some time to think about how you want to approach dealing with the Delta variant. Then, once you’ve implemented your approach, be sure to adjust as necessary. With the proper planning, you can ensure your business remains in a good place for the better days that await us post-pandemic!
Whether it’s the nationwide labor shortages, the large-scale supply chain disruptions, or the Delta variant, the ongoing pandemic continues to present small businesses with challenge after challenge. At Biz2Credit, our mission to serve small businesses across the United States has, as a result, become more important than ever before. In order to help small businesses meet these challenges, we continue to work tirelessly to keep our blog up to date with the latest information regarding news and trends in the world of small businesses. So, please continue to check back here at our Biz2Credit Blog for the latest timely and important news!