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Count On Me NC asks businesses, customers to partner for health

A new partnership between the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association seeks to help businesses reopen safely, instill confidence in the public and foster cooperation between business owners and their customers as businesses begin open their doors.

For businesses such as restaurants, salons and hotels, the new Count On Me NC initiative provides online trainings and other resources to help business owners ensure that they are using best practices as they welcome the public back into their establishments. The general public, meanwhile, can take a pledge to follow those guidelines to help hospitality businesses navigate their new circumstances.

Visit North Carolina and the N.C. State Cooperative Extension Service are also contributing to the effort.

At the local level, three businesses in Beaufort County, as well as Beaufort County Schools, have completed the certification. Those restaurants include Rachel K’s Bakery, Shep’s Grill and Waffle House on Carolina Avenue. As Washington and Beaufort County businesses begin to open back up, Washington Tourism Development Authority Director Erin Ruyle says Count On Me NC is one of the tools local businesses can use to let customers know they care.

“I think it’s very important we market and support this in Washington to help instill confidence in both visitor and resident safety moving forward in Phase II of our marketing message,” Ruyle said. “Coming from the state level, it will have a lot of validity and support behind it, so it’s absolutely something our community needs to embrace.”

Ruyle said the WTDA is putting together a task force of community members to help plan messaging and precautions local businesses are taking to provide a safe experience for visitors.

“We are also working to put together a workshop at the Civic Center to bring local business owners together to educate them about these types of programs, share our future messaging and learn what safety measures they are taking so we can properly unify and communicate our message,” Ruyle said.

While North Carolina already has strict health and safety guidelines in place, Count On Me NC businesses have taken additional training and implemented new procedures in light of COVID-19. All Count On Me NC businesses have pledged to:

  • Ensure safe sanitation practices are followed;
  • Administer health checks to all staff prior to shift start;
  • Make sure indoor and outdoor seating meets all physical distancing guidelines;
  • Provide hand sanitizer or handwashing stations at all entrances;
  • Clean and sanitize common areas, bathrooms and high-touch surfaces regularly using CDC recommendations;
  • Clean and sanitize all tables and hard surfaces after every use;
  • Clean settings, utensils, menus and condiments after every use or provide single-use options

Once businesses complete the online trainings, they will get a certificate to show the public they have done so. Customers who sign on with Count On Me NC, meanwhile, pledge to do the following:

  • Wear a cloth face covering like a mask or scarf;
  • Wait your turn by maintaining six feet of physical distance from others;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer;
  • Use contactless delivery or takeout options if you have been recently exposed to, or have symptoms of, COVID-19;
  • Be patient and kind to staff and other guests as we all try to adjust to a new normal.

“Count On Me conveys a sense of mutual responsibility as the hospitality industry prepares to welcome guests back into our dining rooms and other establishments,” said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. “We believe customers will appreciate the commitment participating businesses are making to protect their health, the health of other patrons and the health of our employees by following the guidance of top public health experts. At the same time, we will rely on our guests to do their part to limit risk to fellow diners and the people serving them.”

For more information on Count On Me NC and how to register your business, visit countonmenc.org.