The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has impacted the world in unprecedented ways that have altered its way of life. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of daily life, including travel, trade, tourism, business practices, and our economy. The United States became number one in the world on March 26, 2020 in COVID-19 cases with 81,578. Congress recently passed a $2 trillion stimulus package on March 27, 2020 to prevent the country from entering a depression because of the pandemic’s dramatic effect on the economy. Given the enormity of COVID-19’s effect on our society, it is important that businesses plan ahead for the influenza pandemic.
Colorado Public Health Response to COVID-19
Colorado public officials have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with orders of varying degrees to protect the public health. Denver Mayor John Hancock issued a stay-at-home order requiring for the City and County of Denver. The order initially listed liquor stores and recreation marijuana shops a non-essential, which would have led to their closure like many other restaurants and businesses. The order was quickly revised later that day to exempt the two businesses after liquor stores were inundated with customers. Colorado Governor, Jared Polis announced statewide stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order went into effect March 26, 2020 and will continue at least until April 11th.
Symptoms, Exposure, and Transmission
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the SARA-CoV-2 virus. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. While some people infected with the virus have experienced these symptoms, others are asymptomatic, experiencing no symptoms at all. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure.
People are most contagious when they are most symptomatic. This occurs when a person experiences fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. People should take precautionary measures even when others do not show symptoms of it. Reports indicate the virus has spread from others who have not shown symptoms of it. The COVID-19 virus is mainly spread from person to person. It can be spread between people who are within six feet of another. Persons infected with the virus produce respiratory droplets when they cough or sneeze. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or also be inhaled through the lungs. Though it is not the primary way in which people become infected with the virus, touching surfaces that have been exposed to it can also cause transmission. This occurs when people touch different parts of their face after touching a surface that has been exposed to the virus.
How COVID-19 Can Affect the Workplace
Because there is no vaccine yet available for the general public, businesses should be aware of how COVID-19 may affect their business practices. Workplaces should expect an increase in worker absences, change in patterns of commerce, and interrupted supply/delivery. Workers may not show up for work because they are sick or are taking care of loved ones that are. Schools shutdown further complicates workers’ schedules if they have children. Employees may be concerned about coming into work and infecting their coworkers if they believe they have been exposed to it, or if they believe they may be exposed to it at work. Employers should also be expected to adapt to increased demand for items related to infection prevention, such as masks or respirators. Consumers will likely change their purchasing patterns to reduce contact with other people. This may include home delivery services as well as making purchases during off-peak hours.
Steps Employers Should Take to Reduce Workers’ Risk of COVID-19 Exposure
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed a COVID-19 planning guidance that all employers should use to identify risk levels in the workplace settings and determine appropriate control measures to implement. OSHA recommends the following steps to reduce the risk of worker exposure to sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan.
- Plans should consider the level of risk associated with worksites and tasks workers perform.
- Follow federal and state, local, tribal, and/or territorial (SLTT) recommendations regarding contingency plans for situations that may occur as a result of outbreaks. This includes social distancing, delivering services remotely, and including options for conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce.
Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures.
- Employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices. This includes encouraging workers to stay home if they are sick; covering coughs and sneezes; providing employees resource so they can work from home; and maintaining regular housekeeping practices, including disinfecting surfaces, equipment, and other areas of the work environment.
Develop Policies and Procedures for Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People
- Identification of potentially infectious individuals is critical to protect your workers. Employees should self-monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Employers should develop policies and procedures so that employees can report when they are sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Implement Workplace Controls
- Engineering Controls. Engineering controls reduce exposure to hazards without relying on worker behavior. This may include installing high-efficiency air filters, increasing ventilation rates in the work environment, as well as installing physical barriers to prevent exposure.
- Administrative Controls. Administrative controls are enacted by employers or employees. These include staying home when sick, replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications, discontinuing nonessential travel, and providing workers with education and up-to-date training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviors.
For more information on how to protect yourself and your employees, contact OSHA at 800-321-6742. Additional information on OSHA’s response to COVID-19 can be found at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html. Whitcomb Selinsky PC wishes everyone to practice reasonable protective measures and to stay safe.