Coronoavirus is dominating the headlines, and the news seems to be growing worse by the day. While most people who develop COVID-19 will experience mild symptoms and recover fully, it’s still a good idea to take precautions in the workplace. In fact, employers have a responsibility to keep their employees safe at all times.
Mitigating the Spread of Coronavirus
Every day, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to rise. Dr. Jay C. Butler, the deputy director for infectious diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), called on employers to take action to help prevent the spread of the disease. Suggested steps include adopting generous sick leave policies, reconsidering large group gatherings, and communicating the importance of proper hand washing and sanitizing techniques.
The biggest step employers can take is to encourage sick employees to stay home. This requires immediate action; employees should be sent home at the first sign of illness since the virus is most contagious in the first few days. Some employees have a tendency to want to “tough it out,” but with the virus now labeled a worldwide pandemic, this is no time for bravado. Support the use of PTO and consider making exceptions to the rules, such as allowing negative leave balances, at least temporarily. If short-term disability is available, that may be another option for employees concerned about missing work without pay.
If your company already has a telecommuting policy in place, make sure to communicate that to all employees—and be as flexible as possible in allowing staff to take advantage of working from home whenever possible. With school districts across the nation closing down and popular events like the March Madness basketball tournament and game shows being filmed without an audience in attendance, it should be clear that minimizing contact is imperative.
Regular environmental cleaning is also essential as the virus may survive on hard surfaces for up to several hours or longer—possibly even days, depending on climate factors like temperature and humidity. Designate employees to wipe down all high-contact surfaces, including door handles, front desks, and elevator buttons, with bleach or alcohol-based wipes. Face masks are not necessary for healthy individuals, as they do little to contain the virus or prevent infection.
Should an employee test positive for coronavirus, contact your local health department to determine necessary steps moving forward. It’s currently unclear how long an individual is contagious; the best estimates assume 14 days after the onset of symptoms and three days after symptoms have resolved.
It’s likely the coronavirus will have a negative effect on your business, but containing it early could prevent more far-reaching consequences down the road.