Maine employers should have contingency plans in place for productivity, employees in case of coronavirus outbreak
As a Maine employer, you already know it pays to be prepared. Whether you operate locally or globally, at some point in the near future, the outbreaks in other parts of the globe may likely affect the ability to obtain products from abroad or even the ability to produce goods and services. There are some great resources and guidelines for business through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine State Government, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
All employers should be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from the coronavirus while ensuring continuity of operations. Based on information provided by the CDC, coronavirus preparedness guides help employers and employees learn more about how they can prepare for and address the impacts of the coronavirus. The U.S. Chamber has also created resources for business response and economic impact data nationally and globally. They can be accessed online at uschamber.com/coronavirus.
First and foremost, circulate workplace prevention tips for employees, including measures to limit the contact with and spread of the virus, including:
Secondly, assemble your management team and determine your response plan, in advance of employees getting sick. Include in your plan items such as:
And to keep your business running smoothly, make sure you are ready if/when employees become sick:
Additional measures in response to the coronavirus include reviewing the CDC’s traveler’s health notices and international travel restrictions, understanding your company’s policy for obtaining medical care outside the United States, and developing a process for maintaining health confidentiality and assessing OSHA requirements, if an employee is confirmed to have the coronavirus.
Maine’s Coronavirus Response Team…
Governor Janet Mills has convened a Coronavirus Response Team (maine.gov/dhhs/press-release.shtml?id=2177142), led by Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah, charged with coordinating State government's response across departments and local agencies and health authorities to the potential spread of COVID-19. Maine CDC will inform the public if positive tests are confirmed and will offer regular updates on testing recommendations. The number of positive test results will be posted to Maine CDC's coronavirus webpage at maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/airborne/coronavirus.shtml.
General Coronavirus Information…
On March 5, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) announced that testing for the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at the state's Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory is expected to begin soon. Maine has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at this time. As Maine CDC previously reported, one individual who met earlier federal testing criteria tested negative.
COVID-19 is a novel (new) coronavirus, first detected in China and now detected in other countries, including the United States. For some, the respiratory virus causes mild symptoms like the common cold or influenza (flu); for others, it can cause severe pneumonia that requires medical care or hospitalization. Symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and sore throat (in some patients). Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. Most patients experience mild symptoms and can recuperate at home, but others, particularly those with underlying medical conditions, may experience more severe respiratory illness. The virus appears to spread in similar ways to influenza (flu) and the common cold – through the air by coughing and sneezing; through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; and through touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Currently there is no vaccine available to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, following the simple steps listed above will reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses such as influenza and the common cold.
Individuals who exhibit symptoms should contact their health care providers, who will make the initial determination on whether COVID-19 testing is advisable. In cases where testing is advisable, medical providers will alert the Maine CDC to coordinate testing. As appropriate, health providers will take samples and submit them to Maine CDC.
For the general public who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. People in communities where ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated though still relatively low risk of exposure. Health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure. Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure. Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure.