microscopic image of virus around red blood cells

Coronavirus Prevention and Response Tips

Important resources:

With the number of coronavirus cases continuing to climb in the US, the CDC has warned the American public to prepare for the effects of the virus known as COVID-19. With the virus present in multiple states, now is the best time to plan for how to respond if or when your workplace and staff is affected.

According to the CDC, widespread transmission in the US would result in a large number of people needing medical care at the same time, which would put stress on our health care infrastructure. At the same time, there would be more absenteeism in schools, workplaces, and other community gathering places.

Understanding what COVID-19 is and how it is transmitted, will make all the difference in staying safe. Under the current circumstances, the CDC has labeled this virus as a pandemic, which simply means the virus has spread worldwide.

Tips for workplace protocol

Employers have an obligation to ensure their workplace is safe and healthy. In light of this, the CDC has issued “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019.” The CDC recommends the following to employers:

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
  • Employer policies should ensure employees, vendors, contractors and others who have symptoms of respiratory illness stay home and not come to the workplace until they are free of fever, signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.
  • Separate sick employees (i.e. those who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath) upon arrival to work, or upon becoming sick if it happens during the day, from other employees and send them home immediately.
  • Emphasize staying home sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees
  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other places they are likely to be seen.
  • Encourage hand and other hygiene by providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by all in the workplace, as well as provide soap and water in restrooms and alcohol-based hand sanitizer or washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning by cleaning frequently touched work surfaces. Provide disposable wipes for employees to use to do the same.

You should also review your operational risk in a worst-case scenario. Take this opportunity to also re-examine emergency response protocols and best practices and update them if they are out of date.

Take the time to review your protocols with your staff, so everyone is on the same page and employees know what to do if they are sick.  With information changing rapidly, it is also important to stay up to date on the latest developments.

What Resources does the Pool offer?

Our “Ready for Anything” emergency response flipbook is available to all members. This guide comes complete with a section on responding to pandemics, among dozens of other emergencies. To order your copy, visit csdpool.org/publications.

In addition, we have enacted the two following solutions to help COVID-19 affected districts maintain operations:

100% Safety Grant reimbursement for COVID-19-related expenses:

The Pool will open up the current $4.8 million in allocated Safety and Loss Prevention Grant funds to 100% reimbursement for COVID-19 response expenses incurred by the district. This will include but is not limited to: resupply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), disinfecting cleanup expense, and non-reimbursed quarantine expenses incurred by employees as a safety precaution to protect other employees. To submit an application, visit our website.

Workers’ Compensation Contribution Adjustments:

The Pool will adjust qualifying Workers’ Compensation contributions in cases where there is more than a $1000 contribution credit due for a reduction in operations, payroll, or situations when the district is dependent upon user fees where services have been discontinued. For questions, please email wc@csdpool.org.

How can I prevent the spread? 

Although there is not yet a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, there are preventative measures such as:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick (close contact means being within six feet for a prolonged period of time)
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  3. Stay home if you are sick
  4. Only wear a face mask if you show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread. The use of face masks is also critical for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.
  5. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  6. Use alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available.

What are the symptoms? 

Confirmed cases have reported symptoms that range from mild to severe illness and death. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen in other types of coronavirus, and this information is subject to change.

What happens if I get it? 

The CDC recommends taking the following steps if you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected. Taking the appropriate steps can greatly prevent further spread to people in your household as well as your community.

  1. Stay home except to get medical care
  2. Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.  Stay in a specific room and away from other people in the house. Use a separate bathroom if available. For animals, restrict contact with pets in the same way you would with people. While there have been no reports of pets or other animals becoming infected with COVID-19, information is limited and this remains the best recommendation.
  3. Wear a face mask. If you cannot wear a face mask because it causes difficulty breathing, people who live with you should not be in the same room. Alternatively, they should wear a face mask.
  4. Cover your cough and sneezes. Cover with tissue, and throw away those tissues in a lined trashcan. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60-95% alcohol
  5. Clean your hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  6. Avoid sharing personal household items
  7. Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday. This includes countertops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables
  8. Monitor your symptoms. Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening. BEFORE seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them what you have or what you are being evaluated for

Patients with confirmed cases should remain under home isolation until secondary transmission risk to others is believed to be low. Your healthcare provider will make that decision on a case-by-case basis.

How does it spread? 

When it is said that a virus can spread from person to person, like COVID-19 is suspected to, this means that it transmits in the following ways:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (about 6 feet)
  • Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly can be inhaled into the lungs.

In addition, it is also possible that COVID-19 can spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects. In this case, a person may be able to get the virus by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is suspected, but it is currently not thought to be the main way that the virus spreads.

When does it spread?

Although data is still coming in, people infected with the virus are thought to be the most contagious when they are at their sickest. Additionally, some spreading has been thought to occur before people show symptoms.

 

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