The situation surrounding the coronavirus, officially titled COVID-19, continues to develop. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly update their statistics as more is learned about the disease. While the CDC believes the current risk to the American public is low, there are still steps that individuals, and organizations, can take to protect themselves.
What Individuals Can Do
The CDC recommends individuals and families follow everyday preventive measures. These measures include:
- Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than to COVID-19-related virus
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol
- Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also advises to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands and to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
What Organizations Can Do
In addition to communicating the above recommendations to staff and members, organizations can take further steps to be prepared in the event of an outbreak.
The current CDC recommended strategies employers can use now include:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home
- Separate sick employees: CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately
- Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees
- Perform routine environmental cleaning
Ready.gov provides detailed information, and even a free software program, for developing a business continuity plan in the face of a variety of hazards, including health hazards such as widespread and serious illnesses.
Many organizations and businesses in the US are facing unique concerns in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses are seeing large disruptions in their supply chains, having to find ways to compensate for breaks in the chain because of closures in heavily impacted countries. Organizations, such as schools and churches, are having to decide if they should hold large events, or possibly close altogether. While this can be overwhelming, the following should be considered as you navigate the decision-making process and response:
As with any situation, it is important to remain calm to ensure responses are measured and appropriate. Stay informed. Follow trusted sources of information, including the various COVID-19 dedicated websites for the CDC, the WHO, OSHA, and also local governmental health and public safety organizations.
Be prepared. Create a plan for yourself, your family, your community, and your organization and trust in that plan. Be sure to follow the steps that have been laid out.
Communicate. Be sure to communicate plans and information to all involved, including employees, volunteers, clients, parents, and others.