March 25, 2020
How to protect yourself, your employees, and your facility from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus
By now, we’ve all had an overload of information regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus and the outbreak of respiratory illnesses (COVID-19) it’s been causing. Whatever your state or city’s restrictions regarding the virus, we all want to keep ourselves, our facilities, and our employees as safe as possible. However, amid the abundance of information out there about the virus, you might find yourself wondering, “which precautions are accurate?” The following information has been carefully compiled from reliable resources including the CDC and the United States Department of Labor. If you have any questions, concerns, or updates regarding our information, please reach out to us at 1-800-595-7616.
What is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
Let’s start with the basics: what is the virus, and where did it come from?
According to the CDC, “a novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.”
Although we’ve been talking about the coronavirus as if it’s the only one that has ever circulated, there are actually a lot of variations of coronaviruses out there. In fact, previous outbreaks of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) are two examples of different variations of coronaviruses.
How does COVID-19 spread?
As you may know, COVID-19 spreads through person-to-person contact. What does that mean exactly? Well, person-to-person contact is close contact with an infected individual (less than six feet of distance), or contact with respiratory droplets that are “produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes,” according to the CDC. To avoid spreading the disease, it is recommended that employees follow proper hand washing techniques, that hand sanitizer be accessible at all times, and that infected individuals are isolated and encouraged to stay home.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in your facility:
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your facility, the CDC in combination with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recommends the following:
- Develop an infectious disease plan
The development of an infectious disease plan includes educating oneself and one’s employees about current local, state, and federal guidelines regarding the disease. The CDC recommends creating “plans [that] consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites.” You can find more information here.
- Prepare to implement basic infection prevention measures
Infection prevention measures include encouraging employees to work from home if possible, educating employees on proper hand washing techniques, respiratory etiquette (covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze), providing the appropriate trash receptacles for tissues, etc., and disinfecting common surfaces regularly. Proper hand washing technique includes twenty seconds of washing your hands with soap and water.
- Develop a procedure for the isolation of sick people
When appropriate, the CDC recommends isolating people with potential symptoms of COVID-19 away from healthy workers.
- Communicate about worker flexibility
Depending on local and state ordinances in the region, non-essential workers might already be mandated to stay at home. However, if that’s not the situation, the CDC and OSHA recommend actively encouraging workers to stay home, especially if sick. This includes developing policies for flexible sick leave (and making sure workers are aware of them), working from home opportunities, and being open to the possibility that workers may have to stay home to care for family members who are sick.
With the virus spreading so rapidly, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces is integral to its containment. Cleaning is visibly removing soil with a multi-purpose surface cleaner, while disinfecting is using a product meant to completely sanitize the space of the virus. At this time, no EPA-certified disinfectants have a claim against this current strain of coronavirus. However, the EPA, CDC, and U.S. Government has activated the Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides for guidance on which products to use.