Unfortunately, the novel coronavirus remains a major issue for Charlotte and the rest of North Carolina. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services just recorded its third-highest daily increase in cases – the most since July 18. Even more unfortunately, some of the outbreaks around Charlotte have been linked to businesses with lax protocols. This underscores the need for persistent vigilance – which may include clearly communicating with one’s customers about what you expect of them, and what they can expect of you.

One of the major lessons of this moment in history is that the responsibility for public health is shared roughly equally by everyone. When there’s a failure of responsibility, anyone can suffer the consequences. And chances are awfully good that those consequences will be borne more heavily by businesses that can be linked to bad outcomes like a new coronavirus outbreak.

Unfortunately, this means that if you’re a Charlotte business owner, you have a responsibility not only to do the right thing in the face of a public health threat, but to also make sure that your customers are doing the right thing as well. It isn’t fair that businesses should have to lead their patrons by the hand in this way. But what’s really not fair is that those same businesses could end up taking the blame if one careless or uninformed patron stumbles in, coughs on everyone, and singlehandedly creates a new viral outbreak.

By allowing your customers to disregard recommendations about masks and social distancing, a Charlotte business might pick up some additional patronage over the short term. But if you think it through, we’re sure you’ll agree that the associated risk is just not worth it. Once that business develops a reputation as the place where all those people got sick, the long-term damage may be incredibly difficult to recover from.

We recognize that in those situations, it might not technically be the business’s fault. But if things got out of hand, there’s a good chance that the business failed to take adequate precautions, as by clearly communicating with the Charlotte community. This is a time to fully utilize your social media accounts and spread the word far and wide about required precautions. It’s also time to update your local business listings online, and expand your website with a section that details how you’re addressing the ongoing crisis.

With these sorts of measures, a Charlotte business can do its part to help control the spread and prevent more spikes in new cases. But more than that, it can also create insurance for itself in the event that those spikes occur anyway. You’ll have a much easier time arguing that an outbreak can’t be traced back to you if you make it clear that you explained your requirements to all potential customers, and also outlined how you were going to enforce them.

And if an outbreak ends up getting traced back to a particular Charlotte business anyway, a clear pattern of public communication will make it much easier for that business to recover from the damage to its reputation. As a general rule of digital marketing, it’s better to anticipate potential disasters and get ahead of them than it is to try to resolve them on the fly once they’ve hit.