Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Guidance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and many other health agencies are responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus that was first detected in China and has spread internationally, including within the United States. The disease caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated COVID-19).
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, between people who are in close contact with one another (about 6 feet), and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Patients with COVID-19 have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Monitor your local and state public health sources to understand COVID-19 activity in your community. If there is a transmission of COVID-19 in the community, consult with public health authorities for guidance.
The most up to date information provided by the CDC on COVID-19 is available here.
Guidance and Resources for Housing Organizations
For guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for businesses and employers to plan and respond to COVID-19 is available here.
Similar guidance has also been provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Here is more information specific to organizations housing older adults in the community provided by King County (WA) Public Health.
To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, use only the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine the risk of COVID-19. Do not make determinations of risk based on the race or country of origin. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the community your organization operates in, there are simple steps to take now to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.
- Manage the spread of germs in the workplace. Implement simple measures such as frequent washing of hands and proper cough etiquette. Place posters or flyers throughout your buildings and offices to promote hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Consider communicating this information during business meetings and posting on company intranets to spread awareness.
- Perform routine cleaning. Surfaces (i.e., desks and tables) and objects (i.e., doorknobs and telephones) must be cleaned with disinfectant regularly. Provide hand sanitizers and disinfectants (i.e., Lysol) throughout buildings and offices, community areas, in company vehicles, etc. to help with preventing the spread of germs.
- Actively encourage employees to stay home if they have symptoms of acute respiratory illness. Sick employees should remain at home until they are free of fever (100.4° F or higher), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever or symptom-reducing medications.
- Prepare for possible increased employee absenteeism due to illness. Cross-train staff to ensure the continuation of critical business functions. Test out telecommunicating plans to ensure they work as anticipated. Consider absences with services providers such as utilities, transportation, and trash removal; secure alternative vendors if necessary.
- Advise employees to consult national travel advice before going on business trips. Based on the latest information provided by the WHO and CDC, your organization should assess the benefits and risks related to upcoming travel plans.
Preparing your Business in the Event COVID-19 Arrives in Your Community
- Develop a plan of what to do if someone becomes ill with suspected COVID-19 in your workplace.
- The plan should cover putting the ill individual in a room or area where they are isolated from others in the workplace, limiting the number of people who have contact with them, and contacting the local health authorities.
- Identify others who may be at risk. This may include persons who have recently traveled to an area with confirmed cases or other personnel with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness (i.e., older age, heart, and lung disease, diabetes).
- Notify your local public health authority and seek their input.
- Promote telecommuting across your organization. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community, the health authorities may advise people to avoid public transport and crowded places. Telecommuting will help keep your business operating while ensuring the safety of employees.
- Develop and/or review business continuity plans.
- The plan should address how to keep your business running in the event a significant number of employees, contractors, and service providers are not able to report to your business- either due to local travel restrictions or because they are ill.
- Communicate the plan to employees and key stakeholders to ensure they are aware of their expectations and duties.
- Develop partnerships with local health and social service providers- these organizations may be able to assist and provide guidance and support in developing and executing your plan.
- Understand the potential legal liability associated with employee and/or residential exposure to individuals with confirmed COVID-19.
If you have a resident(s) with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (including those under investigation), their healthcare provider and public health staff will evaluate whether they can be cared for at home. If it is determined that they do not need to be hospitalized and can be isolated at home, they will be monitored by local state or health department staff. CDC has developed interim guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in homes and residential communities. The most updated information is available here.
CDC advises individuals to notify their healthcare providers that they have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed. In the event of a medical emergency and the need to call 911, individuals should notify the dispatch personnel that they have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. If possible, they should wear a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.
Organizations should be following the same cleaning procedures for suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 as they would for any other airborne infectious disease. Consider hiring a professional biohazard cleanup company specializing in communicable disease disinfection services to ensure adequate elimination of the virus.
Ocupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Guidance for Employers
Despite the low risk of exposure in most job sectors, some workers in the United States may have exposure to infectious people, including travelers who contracted COVID-19 abroad. OSHA standards, including those for personal protective equipment (PPE, 29 CFR 1910.132) and respiratory protection (29 CFR 1910.134), requires employers to assess the hazards to which their workers may be exposed. Read more on OSHA guidance for recognizing and controlling exposures among workers with risk, or download this printable fact sheet.