Coronavirus (COVID-19)

NSC Provides Tips for Employers Regarding the Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV

Employers need to ensure that they are doing everything they can to keep workplaces safe and healthy in the presence of the coronavirus.

Employers and workers can take important steps in keeping the spread of the coronavirus at bay—even in countries like the United States that are not geographically close to Wuhan, China. The National Safety Council (NSC) is closely following data about coronavirus, or 2019 nCoV., and it is clear that employers need to recognize their responsibility in up-keeping a healthy workforce.

The NSC says that all employers can take important measures to keep workers healthy; however, those in the healthcare sector, with employees who travel internationally and those in the international travel industry, are at particular risk of contracting the virus.

Workplace illness prevention training is imperative for all employees, and employers should ensure their workplaces offer appropriate training.

NSC echoes recommendations from OSHA and the CDC on preventing possible transmission of the virus, including the following:

  • Practice proper infection control and sterilization measures.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water is unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick, and see a doctor immediately to be evaluated for 2019-nCoV.
  • If a worker becomes infected, insist that he or she fully recovers before returning to work.
  • Employees who have traveled with heightened levels of exposure should inform their employers immediately.
  • Avoid sending staff on business trips to China, where the virus has originated and has not yet been detained.

The U.S. Department of State recently issued a China travel advisory telling citizens to not travel to any part of China, especially since the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). To aid in this travel advisory, many commercial carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.

Here are a few helpful pieces of information on the virus’ transmission, symptoms, prevention, and treatments. The CDC also offers tips on what the public should do, what to do if you are sick, and other FAQs on the coronavirus.

Transmission
The coronavirus is likely a respiratory virus spread from person to person in close contact through sneezing and coughs. However, much is still unknown about the transmission of 2019-nCoV, and it’s unclear if a person can get the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

Symptoms and Complications
Reported cases of the virus have varied symptoms, and some infected individuals have little to no symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The CDC believes that the incubation period of the virus could be anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been previously seen with the MERS viruses.

The latest situation summary updates are available on CDC’s web page 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China.

Prevention and Treatment
There is no current vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV. The best way to prevent possible transmission is by using proper disinfectant practices including washing your hands often with soap and water (after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing or sneezing); avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; staying home when you are sick; covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue or a sleeve; and cleaning and disinfecting touched objects and surfaces regularly.

Employers should stay up to date about the situation of the coronavirus and ensure that employers are not traveling to areas of high exposure and are using disinfectant practices. Employers can also refer to OSHA’s Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic—which provides helpful tips on monitoring public health crises in general. OSHA also has resources directly related to the coronavirus.

Remember to educate your employees on the signs and symptoms of the virus, provide hand sanitizer and easy access to hand-washing areas, minimize unnecessary meetings and visitors, identify workers who may have traveled to China, implement travel guidelines, and allow sick employees to work from home or take leave as appropriate.

For an example of a travel notice employers can enact for their employees, read Crowell & Moring LLP’s article on the topic.

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