What happens if I discover someone has COVID-19 at my workplace?
By Madison Hanscom
In order to keep yourself, your employees, and others around you free from illness, it is important to backtrack and reflect where you have been in the past two weeks to assess exposure. This includes the work environment. What if one of your employees has been in close proximity to an individual in the workplace who now has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or someone who is displaying symptoms?
If you or one of your employees were in close proximity or could have touched the same surfaces as this individual, it is important to stay informed on how COVID-19 spreads. Although this is a new virus and we are learning more every day, the CDC has released helpful information about transmission on their website (cdc.gov). Experts have discovered that it is possible to spread the virus without showing symptoms; thus, if you have potentially been exposed to the virus, it is recommended you avoid contact with others. Helpful suggestions include:
• Stay home
• Monitor your symptoms
• Avoid public spaces
• Consider others in your living space: keep your hands and living space disinfected
• Start planning what you will do if you become sick
Although it is certainly a priority to consider your own health during this time, do not forget about your employee or coworker who is suffering from this virus. Consider reaching out to this individual [virtually, of course!] to offer social support. It is likely they are experiencing difficult feelings such as guilt, fear, or social isolation, and it is important now more than ever to look out for one another. This can be as simple as a quick text or email to check in, let them know you are thinking about them, and offer an ear to listen.
If you are a leader in this situation, prompt communication will be necessary. Within local privacy and legal requirements, begin by letting the rest of the employees know about this case of COVID-19 so they can protect their own health and the health of those around them. Precaution should be taken to protect the affected individual’s privacy while still addressing concerns from the workforce. Comprehensive cleaning of the workplace should be administered, following CDC guidelines. OSHA also has guidance on protecting workplaces from COVID-19 (links are provided at the bottom of this page). Finally, follow all CDC recommendations when making any decisions regarding COVID-19 and avoid spreading false information or basing decisions using false information.