Frontline staff routinely use 15-20 minute intermission periods to disinfect key areas and touchpoints throughout events Orange County Convention Center

While promoting and assuring safety has been pivotal to keeping the OCCC's doors open, none of the efforts would have been executed effectively without the center's employees being given the same level of confidence. Mindful of both safety and morale, Tester says the first thing the OCCC implemented at the pandemic's onset was a weekly survey that allowed staff to self-regulate and identify symptoms.

The survey, which Tester credits Clemente as being instrumental in developing, has helped to discourage the "play through pain" mentality that can often lead to severe outbreaks in hospitality-centric facilities.

"The survey covers a wide spectrum of potential COVID-related symptoms, and also provides clear steps on what employees should do and who they should contact if any symptoms are present," says Tester. "We've found that people who haven't felt well self-regulated and followed the steps closely, which has been key to staying open since July."

The survey is one part of a multifaceted approach taken by the OCCC to remind employees of the severity of the pandemic — while also stressing that if precautions are taken, everyone can still be safe. With guidance from the center's GBAC partnership, employees had a clearly drawn-out procedure for entering the facility each day.

"We wanted no gaps in the protocol where employees could question whether someone was fit to enter the facility, from wearing a mask the second employees step out of the car to when they arrive at the screening station and fill out a questionnaire," says Clemente. "The final step prior to entering the building is a temperature check, but they won't even get to that point to potentially expose others if an official doesn't sign off on the initial questionnaire."

Another component to employee assurance and the facility's pandemic success is assigning a color-coded wristband upon admittance into the facility. With a different assigned color for each day of the week, the process doesn't intend to imply that employees would skimp on the protocols, but more so to assure them that the facility is taking measures seriously every day.

In addition to setting clear expectations of daily protocols, Tester has been transparent about the OCCC's goals as the pandemic intensified. This included an explanation of what the GBAC and Orlando Health partnerships involve and the benefits they will bring to employees and visitors. Tester communicated this message in person to each department, a move that meant a lot to the staff.

"The supervisor saying it is one thing, but having the executive director himself personally convey the message of why these changes are important went a long way with breaking barriers," says Clemente.

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