The COVID-19 Coronavirus is making worldwide headlines, with cases of infection popping up somewhere new every day. Recent developments suggest there will not be a way to avoid an epidemic and pandemic using quarantines due to asymptomatic patients spreading the virus, cases of mild disease, and increasing numbers of cases without a known contact.
While mild cases lower the fatality rate for any given case, it’s also far easier to spread the virus to others who then are at risk for a severe case. For now, the scope and severity of an epidemic/pandemic remain unclear and companies need to be prepared with a contingency plan.
What should employers do to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus?
1. Eliminate all close contact with anyone with infectious symptoms. If there is believed to be coronavirus being transmitted in your area or someone has been traveling to a region with potential infection, then anyone with even mild respiratory tract infection symptoms (e.g. cough, fever, fatigue) should stay home to be sure it doesn't progress to a clear, readily transmissible, and potentially severe coronavirus infection.
2. Stop non-essential travel to China, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea or other cities/countries with a potential epidemic and/or between person spread in progress (see map to help with other risk considerations). A company should assess their risk tolerance regarding cessation of non-essential overseas travel especially either to, or through, any country reporting cases.
- Consider having workers work from home who could be in the incubation stage due to potential exposure(s) including those who have traveled to regions with potentially infections (i.e. for 2 weeks after a possible exposure, particularly including into areas with an epidemic in progress). Ensure health department involvement.
3. Ensure affected workers have sufficient paid leave to assure they observe a quarantine and/or are able to not come to work when they should not.
4. Train staff who clean workplaces and provide them personal protective equipment (PPE).
5. Clean commonly touched worksite surfaces frequently (e.g. hourly). These include machine controls, door handles, bathroom doors, faucet handles, lunch tabletops, etc. Consider propping open doors to reduce handling. Avoid shared equipment when possible (e.g. keyboards) and clean common surfaces between shifts or between worker usage. Clean surfaces with an agent that kills viruses.
6. Encourage frequent hand washing.
7. Teach employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and/or mouth with unwashed hands.
8. Remind employees to use tissues to catch a cough or sneeze, then throw that tissue away and wash their hands.
9. Encourage social distancing in group settings, ideally a distance of at least 3-6 feet.
10. Urge early reporting of any symptoms.
11. Discourage anyone who develops symptoms to come to the workplace until clinically evaluated.
12. Consider having workers work from home who could be in the incubation stage (i.e. for 2-4 weeks after a possible exposure).
13. Report any suspected case to the local health department.
If there is a confirmed case in your workplace, determine the most common contacts with that person and either: 1) encourage them to work from home and/or 2) preclude the close contacts from entering the workplace.
Visit www.cdc.gov for more details and strategies for businesses to respond to a potential Coronavirus outbreak.
This information was compiled by the University of Utah’s Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and has been posted with permission.
Learn more about the health concerns of Coronavirus here.