The Coronavirus COVID-19 is a worldwide concern as it continues to spread in many countries and here in the United States. The most current reports on U.S. cases will be updated every weekday at noon by the CDC.
- COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus first discovered last year in Wuhan, China, likely from an animal source.
- Older adults and those with chronic conditions are at a higher risk for severe illness from this virus.
- The virus is spread person-to-person by close contact (within 6 feet), through respiratory droplets from coughing/sneezing. It may also be contracted by touching infected surfaces, then touching one’s own mouth, nose or eyes.
- Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and complications include pneumonia, organ failure and sometimes death.
- There is no vaccine, nor antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Infected patients can seek medical attention to treat symptoms.
Encourage employees, contractors and temps who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness to stay home and not return until they are free of fever (>100.4º), without the use of fever-reducing medication, and other symptoms for at least 24 hours.
Infected employees or household members should notify their supervisors of illness. Employers should then notify fellow employees of possible exposure, while maintaining confidentiality as required by the ADA.
Separate employees who show symptoms of acute respiratory illness at work from the general workforce and sent home immediately.
Ensure sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies, for themselves and to care for family members.
Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with respiratory illness for validation, as such facilities may not be able to provide in a timely fashion.
Remind employees to cover their noses/mouths with a tissue (or elbow or shoulder, if not available) when coughing or sneezing. Instruct employees to wash hands with soap/water often for at least 20 seconds, or use a 60-95% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be sure these supplies are readily available. If possible, provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles around the work area.
Routinely clean all frequently touched workplace surfaces, such as workstations, counters, doorknobs and light switches. Consider providing disposable disinfectant wipes for employees’ use as well.
For travelling employees:
- Refer to the CDC Traveler’s Health Notices page for current guidance and recommendations, by country.
- Check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before, during and after travel, and notify supervisors of any illness.
- Provide employees travelling overseas for work with your company’s policy on international health coverage. Later, you may want to revisit your organization’s international healthcare benefits, as recommended here.
Employers should be ready with business continuity plans in response to high absenteeism, including providing remote office managers with authority to take action for their location, as appropriate and cross-training essential functions.
Report any outbreaks to local and state health officials.
Employers can find updated information on business response here, on the CDC website.
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