Berks County launched a public awareness campaign designed to communicate the importance of promoting and enforcing effective health and safety standards to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The campaign, Do Your Part — Stop the Spread, was created to speak directly to business leaders and residents about the need to focus their attention on meaningful actions they can take to help fight back against this invisible enemy.

It will appear in print, on television, over the airwaves and online. The county is asking that business owners and local residents display posters promoting the campaign where others can see.

During a press conference at the Berks Department of Emergency Services in Bern Township on April 13, Berks County Commissioners Chairman Christian Y. Leinbach said the county and the state must shift its focus on action that will mitigate the spread of COVID- 19.

“For the past several weeks, the commonwealth has been focused on which businesses should be open and which businesses should be closed,” Leinbach said. “At the same time, many businesses that are open are not practicing proper health and safety practices.

“It’s time to change the focus. It’s time for Berks County to focus on meaningful and effective health and safety standards to truly mitigate the spread of COVID-19 here in our community.”

Leinbach said it’s important to remember that the public health crisis the world is facing is real and that we are in this together.

“We must do what we can to limit the spread so that our local health care providers are not overrun with cases of COVID-19,” he said. “I also know that Berks countians are tough and will do what they need to in order to keep their families and neighbors safe.”

Here’s what the county is asking the public to do:

• Every business and institution should immediately institute COVID-19 health and safety policies to protect their staffs and customers.

• The best way to avoid exposure is to follow good public health hygiene practices that should be done every day regardless of the existence of this new disease.

• Stay at home as much as possible.

• Avoid touching your face.

• Wash your hands vigorously with soap and water multiple times a day.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Clean surfaces in your home and office regularly.

• Practice social distancing.

• Wear a cloth mask when they must go out in public.

• Support businesses that implement healthy standards and avoid businesses that ignore these precautions, recognizing that they are putting their employees and patrons at risk.

• Call on Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Legislature to change the focus away from deciding what businesses are opened or closed and on to enforcing meaningful health and safety standards to truly mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

Greater Reading Chamber Alliance officials said in a press release that they applaud the commissioners for their efforts to promote COVID-19-related health and safety practices among the Berks business community.

“Our member businesses, large and small, have been working together and sharing vital information and practices to safeguard employees and keep the portions of our life-sustaining economy running for our community and beyond,” the press release stated.

Leinbach acknowledged the order to shutdown nonlife-sustaining businesses has spurred a lot of complaints.

Business owners have been upset about being ordered to close and about the waiver process to overturn that decision.

And many workers have voiced concerns about how their employers are handling things, questioning why they’re still open or the lack of safety protocols they’ve put in place. Some have said they fear their jobs would be in jeopardy if they pushed back against their bosses.

According to the governor’s office, the best thing for workers to do if they feel their employer isn’t following the rules is to contact their local police.

Lyndsay Kensinger, the governor’s spokeswoman, has said businesses that fail to comply with the shutdown mandate will face enforcement actions that could include citations, fines or license suspensions. Businesses not in compliance could also forfeit their ability to receive disaster relief funds or have state loan or grant funding terminated.

Businesses found to be falling short on health laws can also be punished, Kensinger said.

“The Department of Health is authorized to prosecute noncompliant entities for the failure to comply with health laws, including quarantine, isolation or other disease control measures,” she said. “Violators are subject to fines or imprisonment.”

Leinbach said he understands the frustration residents feel when they see other people and businesses not taking the proper precautions.

“We must do better,” he said.

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