The author is executive director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.
We have reached President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, and vaccine distribution may go down in history as one of his signature achievements. What does that mean for radio stations and reopening?
When Joe Biden arrived in the White House, the coronavirus spread was a top concern in the minds of many Americans. More than 400,000 people in the U.S. had already died from the virus, and vaccinations had sputtered. The Trump administration shouldered much of the blame for the slow response, and voters seemed to want leaders to go on the offensive. Biden promised a bold plan of 100 million COVID vaccine shots in the first 100 days.
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With spring in the air, Biden can claim victory for that pledge. The United States has administered over 200 million COVID-19 vaccines in his first 100 days in office. The breakneck pace and sheer accessibility of vaccination today — states like Texas and others have made vaccines freely available to everyone — is sparking hope in somewhat of a return back to normal.
Offices, including those of radio stations, are part of the normalcy conversation. Dozens of major corporations and municipalities have announced plans to fully reopen this summer. For media outlets, including public and community radio, the discussion about reopening to staff, volunteers and the public is in full swing.
What are the issues radio stations should consider when weighing out reopening their studios and facilities?
First and foremost, it is best that stations follow recommendations of their cities and counties for reopening. City and county leadership are monitoring infection rates daily. They can give your station tips on issues like office capacity and what other nonprofits and businesses are doing. They may even be able to point you to a group of organizations like yours and how they’re mapping out reopening, and to what degree.
You may also wish to decide how open you want your station to be. Vaccinated staff may feel comfortable around unvaccinated individuals or those whose status is unclear. Vaccination is not a 100% guarantee that a vaccinated person won’t contract the virus. So, you may want to explore this matter with staff and your human resources people. Will you want to do a temperature check with guests? What are your cleaning and social distancing protocols? These are among the topics you will need to resolve.
Voluntary or mandatory vaccination is another question you may want to consider. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor have previously noted vaccines may be required as a safety measure. If your station wants to make vaccines voluntary or mandatory, you will need to ensure that you are making appropriate medical or religious accommodations as they are necessary.
The National Federation of Community Broadcasters recently issued a variety of templates and a checklist for community radio stations considering reopening. Such documents may prove beneficial to stations starting the long journey toward welcoming back our communities to radio studios.