Coronavirus Updates and Resources

How to Protect Essential Workplaces and Employees During COVID-19

Published on March 27, 2020

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In just a matter of days, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak forced millions of Americans into quarantine, away from their jobs, schools, and social gatherings. Several states have even issued shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders to keep residents indoors and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While most retail stores and corporate offices have closed their doors, some businesses are considered too “essential” to shut down. For most states, these essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, gas stations, and laundromats.

It’s important to protect yourself as an essential employee during coronavirus. Here are the Do’s and Don’ts for essential workers, as recommended by the CDC and OSHA:  

DO’s: Protecting Essential Employees during Coronavirus

Wash your hands  

This might seem like a no brainer, but the importance of keeping your hands clean can’t be emphasized enough. It is one of the most important steps to avoid the spread of germs. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for a duration of 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Keep your environment clean

Be sure to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as desks, keyboards, phones, countertops, doorknobs, and light switches. If you are managing staff, make sure they are equipped with disposable wipes, no-touch disposal receptacles, and appropriate cleaning agents and disinfectants to encourage routine cleaning. Click here to view the CDC’s cleaning and disinfection recommendations.   

Keep your distance

As an essential workplace, you may still have to go into an office space during the coronavirus pandemic, but it is still possible to practice social distancing while working. The CDC recommends that employees and customers stand at least six feet apart in a public setting. If you work in an office, consider increasing the distance between desks and tables. Avoid team meetings and other activities that require close physical proximity with co-workers and customers. If you run a small business, you should also consider other social distancing strategies for your team, such as telecommuting and flexible work hours, to increase the distance between employees during the coronavirus outbreaks.

Use visual reminders

Place posters and signs around the workplace to communicate important information, including:

  • How to identify COVID-19 symptoms
  • Reminders to practice good respiratory hygiene and hand hygiene
  • Reminders to employees to keep their work environments clean
  • Reminders to customers to keep their distance from others, especially while waiting in line

Practice proper sneezing and coughing etiquette

If you are still trying to get over that lingering cold, avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands. Instead, use the “vampire sneeze maneuver” by crossing your arm over your nose and mouth and sneeze – or cough – into your elbow.  

DON’Ts: Things to Avoid in an Essential Workplace during Coronavirus

Do not touch your face

This is often easier said than done – many of us don’t realize how often we touch our face! But like hand washing, it’s imperative that we be mindful of how much we do it. To help prevent COVID-19, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. According to the CDC, touching the mucous membranes on your face with dirty hands allows germs that cause respiratory infections like COVID-19 to enter the body.

Don’t share personal items

Avoid using co-workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If you absolutely must use or touch something that belongs to another person, wipe or spray the item with a disinfectant prior to use.  

Do not shake hands

Handshaking is a knee jerk reaction in many work environments, especially if you are often meeting new clients or patients. In keeping with social distancing practices, use other non-contact methods of greeting, such as a simple wave or verbal acknowledgment. Don’t worry about appearing standoffish – your acquaintance will likely thank you for it!

Don’t wear a mask if you are NOT sick

According to the CDC, you do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick. Facemasks may be in short supply, and they should be saved for caregivers. Following the CDC’s basic hygiene recommendations should suffice in non-medical facilities.

Don’t come to work if you are sick

If you are a manager, encourage workers to stay home if they sick or believe they have COVID-19 symptoms. Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.

Our mission at e-Health is to support the health and well-being of individuals and small-business. For additional coronavirus advice, health tips, and information on coverage, please visit eHealth.com

For information and guidelines specific to the coronavirus outbreak, visit cdc.gov

This article is for general information and should not be relied on as medical advice. Check with a medical professional for medical advice.

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