DUBLIN, Va. – Gov. Ralph Northam created the COVID-19 Business Task Force to seek advice on how to safely and responsibly create guidelines for businesses to reopen.
Southwest Virginia has a seat at the virtual table in the form of Franky Marchand, the vice president and general manager at Volvo Trucks Dublin plant. He said he was excited to get the call to join the governor’s new task force.
"It’s a privilege. It’s an honor. So I said, ‘Yeah sure, why not? What do you need?’” Marchand said.
The task force has two dozen members who represent different industries in Virginia: manufacturing, salons, theaters, fitness centers, restaurants, wineries, etc.
Their task is to advise the governor on how to ease restrictions on businesses, which could differ for companies that work with directly with the public and those that don’t.
“We’ve been comparing what matters to each one of our businesses,” Marchand said. “You have to look for the solution and try it and be open to constantly changing. And get the feedback of people: This is what works; this doesn’t work as well, and what else can we do,” Marchand said.
Another task force member is George Hodson of Veritas Winery in Nelson County.
“What we’d like to be able to do is advocate for the opportunity to operate safely,” Hodson said.
At Volvo, Marchand said adapting to COVID-19 has been difficult and things change all the time.
Volvo has slowed production so they can make sure employees social distance, but they’ve been open on-and-off for the past five weeks.
There are about 2,575 employees at the plant currently. Volvo said it has staggered shifts and temporarily laid off workers due to the decreased demand.
All employees get their temperatures checked before walking inside and they have to wear masks.
There is also a UV light to disinfect objects like masks and phones.
There are still a lot of unknowns about what the economy will look like and no clear cut answer for every single industry in Virginia. That’s why Marchand said all businesses will have to adapt.
“We need to make sure that we have a good, safe .. for everyone.. everybody can get to function,” Marchand said.
The governor’s office hasn’t released any specific steps or guidelines for businesses to reopen, but did release the Forward Virginia blueprint, which details Phase I of reopening the commonwealth.
That blueprint states that the governor would wait to ease restrictions until there has been a 14-day downward trend in confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The governor’s office is working closely with the task force, health, state and local officials to come up with a reopening plan for businesses. They expect to release those guidelines at the beginning of May.