Health & safety New Normal

CDC offers guidance on offices & workplaces

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered a new set of guidelines for reopening U.S. businesses and workplaces.

The recommendations chiefly fall into two areas: Administrative controls that change the way people work in an office or workplace, and “engineering controls” that minimize the chance of workers being exposed to the virus.

Of special interest are the recommendations regarding how employees are supposed to change the way they work going forward through the New Normal. Among the key recommendations:

  • Upon arriving at work, employees should get a temperature and symptom check.
  • Inside the office, desks should be six feet apart. If that isn’t possible, employers should consider erecting plastic shields around desks.
  • Seating should be barred in common areas.
  • Face coverings should be worn at all times.

Recommendations on workplace changes

Here are the CDC’s full recommendations on changes to workplace behavior and interactions because of the coronavirus:

  • Actively encourage employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 to notify their supervisor and stay home.
  • Employees who appear to have symptoms upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from others, provided a face mask if they are not using one, and sent home with instructions and guidance on how to follow-up with their health care professional.
  • Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with their healthcare provider.
  • Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after anyone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in the workplace.
  • Consider conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks (e.g., symptoms and/or temperature screening) of employees before they enter the work site.
  • See CDC’s COVID-19 General Business FAQs for guidance on how to safely conduct employee screening.
  • Develop and implement a policy to prevent employees from congregating in groups while waiting for screening, and maintain a 6-foot separation between employees.
  • Stagger shifts, start times, and break times as feasible to reduce the density of employees in common areas such as screening areas, break rooms, and locker rooms.
  • Consider posting signs in parking areas and entrances that ask guests and visitors to phone from their cars to inform the administration or security when they reach the facility.
    • Provide directions for visitors to enter the building at staggered times.
  • Consider posting signs in parking areas and entrances that ask guests and visitors to wear cloth face coverings if possible, to not enter the building if they are sick, and to stay 6 feet away from employees, if possible.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces
    • Follow the Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting to develop, follow, and maintain a plan to perform regular cleanings to reduce the risk of people’s exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 on surfaces.
    • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, printer/copiers, drinking fountains, and doorknobs.
    • Provide employees with disposable wipes and other cleaning materials so that they can properly wipe down frequently touched surfaces before each use.
  • Provide employees adequate time to wash their hands and access to soap, clean water, and single use paper towels.
    • Remind employees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, they should use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Establish policies and practices for social distancing:
    • Remind employees that people may be able to spread COVID-19 even if they do not show symptoms. Consider all close interactions (within 6 feet) with employees, clients, and others as a potential source of exposure.
    • Prohibit handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps.
    • Limit use and occupancy of elevators to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.
    • Encourage the use of outdoor seating areas and social distancing for any small group activities such as lunches, breaks, and meetings.
  • For employees who commute to work using public transportation or ride sharing, consider offering the following support:
    • If feasible, offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others (e.g., biking, walking, driving or riding by car either alone or with household members).
    • Ask employees to follow the CDC guidance on how to protect yourself when using transportation.
    • Allow employees to shift their hours so they can commute during less busy times.
    • Ask employees to wash their hands as soon as possible after their trip.
  • Post signs and reminders at entrances and in strategic places providing instruction on hand hygieneCOVID-19 symptoms, and cough and sneeze etiquette. This should include signs for non-English speakers, as needed.
  • Use no-touch waste receptacles when possible.
  • Remind employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Employees should wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in all areas of the business.
  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering as a measure to contain the wearer’s respiratory droplets and help protect their co-workers and members of the general public. Employees should not wear cloth face coverings at work if they have trouble breathing, any inability to tolerate wearing it, or if they are unable to remove it without assistance.
    • Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment. They may prevent workers, including those who don’t know they have the virus, from spreading it to others but may not protect the wearers from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • Remind employees and clients that CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. Wearing a cloth face covering, however, does not replace the need to practice social distancing.

For more information, see the CDC update, COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings.

Health & safety New Normal

CDC releases guidance on how to reopen safely

After several days of delay, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control has issued a set of recommendations and guidelines for reopening large swaths of the nation. The 60-page report, titled CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again,” is here.

CDC guidance

From the report:

As businesses and other organizations gradually open after the COVID-19-related slowdown, they will need to consider a variety of measures for keeping people safe. These considerations include practices for scaling up operations, safety actions (e.g., cleaning and disinfection, social distancing), monitoring possible reemergence of illness, and maintaining health operations. …

Widespread community mitigation combined with ongoing containment activities represents both an effective
intervention for limiting the spread of COVID-19 and a serious threat to the economic well-being of the country
and the world.

See pages 45 to 48 for guidance for schools, pages 53 to 56 for guidances for restaurants and bars, and pages 49 to 52 for guidance for employers with high-risk workers.

The report appears to be fairly well crafted if somewhat thin on specifics and passive on enforcement. It seems divorced, however, from the actions being taken at the federal level. Calling for continued community mitigation and containment strategies is all well and good, but if those calls are divorced from supportive measures to implement them, then they’re just words on a page.