Local health officials are advising residents to stay calm but to be well prepared and take the following precautions both at school and in the workplace in wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The Coastal Health District is sharing the following information from the CDC for employers:
Guidance for Schools: Preparing for COVID-19
As a school administrator, there are steps you can take now to lessen the impact of a severe infectious disease outbreak in your school. It is important to review your health policies and emergency plans to ensure you’re prepared if COVID-19 infections begin to spread in our community.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is developing specific guidance for schools in response to COVID-19. Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that causes symptoms similar to influenza and is thought to be spread in the same way. The following strategies to prepare for a flu pandemic are a good starting point for your COVID-19 planning.
Create a Culture of Health in Your School -- Always promote healthy hygiene habits. Make sure students and staff have access to warm water and soap or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, tissues, and trash baskets. *Small children should only use hand sanitizer under adult supervision.
Remind parents to keep sick children at home. Students should be symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines before returning to school.
Also encourage staff to stay home when they’re sick. The same rules apply - employees should be symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school.
Follow your standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting. Typically, this means daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones, and toys.
Planning Ahead -- Plan for staff and student absences. Develop flexible attendance and sick-leave policies that you can enact in a severe outbreak. Staff may need to stay home when they are sick, caring for a sick household member, or caring for their children in the event of school dismissals.
Review your process for planning school events. Identify actions to take if you need to postpone or cancel events, such as sporting and special events.
Identify space that can be used to separate sick people if possible. If an employee or student gets sick at school and cannot leave immediately, designate a separate area just for sick people if possible.
Consider how you will handle school dismissals if public health recommends temporary school closures to lessen the spread of illness.
Colleges and universities should also identify strategies to continue essential student services like meals, health, and social services. These plans should address students who are not able to return home, like international and out-of-state students.
Discourage Stigma & Discrimination -- It’s also important to be mindful of the language you use and the policies you enact, ensuring you do not inadvertently promote stigma and discrimination. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed coronavirus infection.
More Information for Schools
The CDC has pandemic influenza planning guidance, information, and resources for schools on its website. These materials may be helpful as you prepare for COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/school/index.html
Guidance for Businesses: Preparing for a COVID-19 Outbreak --
As an employer, there are steps you can take now to lessen the impact of an infectious disease outbreak on your workforce while ensuring your business operations can continue. One of the most important things you can do is also one of the simplest: remind your staff that all sick employees should stay home and away from the workplace. Additionally, encourage employees to wash hands frequently, and ensure commonly touched surfaces are cleaned regularly.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends several strategies business should implement now, before COVID-19 infections begin spreading through our community.
Employees & Illness; Sick Leave -- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Employees should be symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines before returning to work.
Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies
Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a
sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at
home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
Encourage Healthy Behaviors -- Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty
Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
Discourage Stigma & Discrimination -- It’s also important to be mindful of the language you use and the policies you enact, ensuring you do not inadvertently promote stigma and discrimination in the workplace. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed coronavirus infection.
More Information for Businesses -- The CDC has more planning guidance, information, and resources for businesses on its website at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html