It’s pretty hard to miss news headlines about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and now concerns over the spread of the disease have got everyone on high alert.
Schools have closed, workplaces have shuttered, and many professional conferences and events have been canceled, including Facebook’s Global Marketing Conference, IBM’s Think, and Google Cloud Next, which was scheduled for April six to eight in San Francisco.
There have also been concerns the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games could be postponed until the end of the year amid coronavirus concerns.
According to the New York Times, U.S. “Congress approved an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to fight the virus, but officials in several countries say the virus will keep spreading fast for some time.”
As governments from around the world rush to prepare for and implement measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, companies are also looking to put procedures and policies in place to effectively manage the spread of the disease at work and protect their employees.
If you are wondering what you can do to prepare for the coronavirus at work and at home, continue reading.
What Is the Coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals or humans. “In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.”
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak in China in December 2019.
What Are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
Individuals infected with coronavirus have displayed the following symptoms:
- Mild to severe respiratory illness.
- Difficulty breathing.
Symptoms may appear two to fourteen days after exposure, so infected people may have the disease without even realizing they have it.
The virus, which started in Wuhan, a large city in Central China, has spread quickly since the first cases were reported late last year. There are now more than 130,000 confirmed cases (as of March 12th, 2020), of which eight percent were considered severe.
Although efforts have been made to contain the virus and spread of COVID-19, the CDC has confirmed more than 100 countries have reported cases of the disease, including South Korea, Italy, Japan, Canada, Australia, the Dominican Republic, and Iran.
Now the U.S. is seeing a surge in new cases primarily in Washington state, which has pushed the total number of infections in the United States past 100 as of March 2.
According to reports from the New York Times, “so far, 14 deaths have been linked to the virus — all but one in the Seattle area — with more than 200 confirmed cases across the country.
Reports of cases in New Jersey, Maryland, and Tennessee brought the number of states with infected patients to 19, and Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland declared a state of emergency. Washington State reported dozens of new cases on Thursday, March 5 and New York added 11. San Francisco reported its first two cases, and Houston had its first.”
Us States With Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus
- New York
- Rhode Island
(Last Updated March 2020).
The rapid spread of the disease has got many people worried about how to prepare and how it will impact their jobs.
Below are a few helpful guidelines and suggestions to help you prepare for the virus at home and at work.
1) If You Are Feeling Sick, Stay Home
The CDC advises employees who are displaying signs of acute respiratory illness or feeling sick to stay home.
Staying home will help to prevent the spread of the disease and will also help you to get the time needed to rest and recover.
2) Avoid Coworkers Who Have Traveled to Affected Areas
Many companies require employees to travel for work, but if you have colleagues who have traveled to affected areas within the last 14 days, it may be best to avoid close contact with them.
Although a lot is not known about the disease, it is believed to be spread from person-to-person through droplets of saliva or mucus carried in the air for up to six feet or so when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
It can also be transferred when shaking hands or sharing a drink with someone who has the virus.
Most times, you may see symptoms such as coughing, but some people have the virus and don’t show signs right away, or they don’t know they have it.
Taking extra precautions like avoiding people who have traveled to affected areas may help to prevent the spread.
3) Discuss a Contingency Plan With Your Employer
If your human resources department hasn’t yet had a discussion about the coronavirus, it might be a good idea to touch base with your manager to discuss contingency plans in case of an outbreak in your area.
This plan could include steps to follow if you or any of your colleagues are feeling ill, including staying at home. Or it might involve getting permission to work from home remotely to avoid the spread of the disease.
Additional Reading (Work from Home/ Remote Work:
- 9 Career Opportunities That Let You Work From Home
- How to Make a Living from Home and Not Freak Out in the Process?
Having plans in place with your employer will help to deal with a potential outbreak much easier.
Below are a few questions to consider discussing with your manager or HR department that will help you to gain more clarity on how to handle the situation.
- What measures are put in place to deal with a potential outbreak?
- What happens if I suspect I have, or someone I know has coronavirus?
- Are you imposing any travel restrictions at this time?
- Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to apply for employees or immediate family members who may contract coronavirus?
- Will I need to present a doctor’s note prior to returning to work if I have been quarantined but report being asymptomatic?
- What if I don’t want to come to work for fear of contracting the virus?
- What if the office is closed due to coronavirus?
- How should I report absences to my manager during this time?
4) Wash Hands and Practice Good Personal Hygiene
Similar to the flu and other community viruses, it is important to wash hands and practice good personal hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease.
The CDC recommends individuals to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid sharing personal items. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, or eating utensils with colleagues at work. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
5) Clean All High-touch Surfaces Daily
High touch surfaces include desks, computer monitors, mouse, phones, keyboards, tablets, and any other workplace equipment.
Use a cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product, including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during the use of the product.
Always have hand sanitizer on hand and take extra care to clean your desk with germ-killing sprays like Lysol. If needed, use a face mask and gloves to safeguard against the disease.
6) Do Not Travel to Affected Areas
Many companies have tightened travel restrictions since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Some banned international travel for their employees and are strongly discouraging travel to affected areas.
The U.S. Department of State has put out several travel advisories warning citizens of travel to countries with a large number of cases of the coronavirus. They have categorized the risks of travel from level 1 to 4, with 4 being a do not travel warning.
Travel Advisory Warning Levels
- Watch — Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions
- Alert — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
- Warning — Level 3, Avoid Non-essential Travel
- Do Not Travel — Level 4, Do Not Travel
Right now, China is a level 4, which means citizens should avoid travel to China.
7) Check If Your Healthcare Provider Offers Telehealth Services
Many health insurance providers offer telehealth services, which is the delivery of health-related services through a phone, tablet, or laptop.
It’s like a virtual office visit where you can get the benefits of speaking with and seeing a doctor to discuss medical-related issues.
The benefits of telehealth are that it’s convenient, easy to access, and sometimes cheaper than scheduling a doctor’s visit. But in case of an outbreak of the coronavirus in your community, the benefits extend further.
If you are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, or believe you may have the virus being able to schedule, a doctor’s visit will help you to get professional medical advice without having to risk infecting others.
The CDC also recommends calling your healthcare provider ahead of time to let them know you have or may have symptoms of the virus. Although telehealth does not replace the advice of your primary care provider, it’s a good option to have in case of an outbreak in your area.
8) Stock up on Essentials
The CDC issued an advisory on February 25, 2020, advising that the public should prepare for the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak.
In case of an outbreak of the coronavirus in your area, your company may ask you to work from home. Or if you’re a parent, your kids will likely be asked to stay home. It’s important to stock up on essential items in case you have to stay home for a number of days.
Essential items include shelf-stable items like rice and canned goods, first aid kits, prescription and over the counter medications such as pain killers and fever reducers, masks, hand sanitizers, household items, and pet food if you have pets. Here are a few examples of items to make sure to have on hand.
- Canned fruits.
- Canned veggies.
- Canned meat.
- Frozen foods.
- Fever reducers like Ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
- Hand sanitizer and soap.
- Gauze pads.
- Toilet paper.
- Paper towels.
- Disinfectant wipes.
- Feminine napkins.
- Garbage bags.
Although you don’t need to go overboard, it’s good to have a few essentials on hand, so if there is an outbreak and you are home from work, you have what you need before it’s all sold out.
9) Take Your Laptop Home Each Day
If you have a laptop, it’s a good idea to take it home on a daily basis. If your company or office has to close due to potential exposure to the coronavirus, it will most likely be immediate, and you may not be able to access anything in the office.
Having your laptop and other work material on hand in case of closure will make it possible for you to work from home and keep connected with your colleagues and manager.
10) Be Prepared
Although there is still much uncertainty around the coronavirus and how it is spread, one thing is certain is that the disease has been causing panic and concern all around the world.
And while drug companies and scientists from around the world rush to develop vaccines and are starting to test them on animals. It could be a while before it reaches the mass market.
In the meantime, be sure to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family from the disease and keep informed of news related to the outbreak.
To learn more about the coronavirus and how to prepare, visit the CDC website and remember to stay calm and don’t panic. Put a plan in place, so if there is an outbreak in your community, you are prepared and know exactly what to do.
Sources or References:
- What to Do If You Are Sick with COVID-19 (CDC).
- COVID-19 (2019 novel coronavirus) updates (MIT Medical).
- What to Do If You Are Sick with COVID-19 (CDC).
- Coronavirus Cases Surge in U.S. and Europe (The New York Times).
- Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19) (WHO).
- Up to 1 million people could be tested for coronavirus in the US by the end of the week (CNN)