COVID-19 Guidance for Businesses

Issued: 03/02/2020
Recommended strategies for use now:
Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:
• Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
• 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.
Separate sick employees:
• Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees:
• 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.
• Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.
Perform routine environmental cleaning:
• 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.
• No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
• Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps:
• Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which they will travel.
• Understand that if employees travel to affected areas with community spread of COVID-19, there may be public health monitoring and movement restrictions issued to them upon their return.
• Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
• Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
• If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.

Review your emergency plans
Businesses should be reviewing their emergency plans, and if businesses do not have emergency plans, they need to be developed. Businesses need to establish their planning priorities, examples could include: (a) reducing transmission among staff, (b) protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, (c) maintaining business operations, and (d) minimizing adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains.
Businesses need to keep the following planning considerations in mind:
• The severity of illness or how many people will fall ill from COVID-19 is unknown at this time, so plans need to flexible and scalable.
• Impact may be more severe for employees at higher risk for COVID-19 adverse health complications, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
• For the general American public, such as workers in non-healthcare settings and where it is unlikely that work tasks create an increased risk of exposures to COVID-19, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is currently considered low.
Planning recommendations:
• Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees.
• Review human resources policies to make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws.
• Prepare for increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members, dismissals of early childhood programs and K-12 schools due to high levels of absenteeism or illness:
o Employers should plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism at the workplace. Implement plans to continue your essential business functions in case you experience higher than usual absenteeism.
o Cross-train personnel to perform essential functions so that the workplace is able to operate even if key staff members are absent.
• Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies.
o For employees who are able to telework, supervisors should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved.
o Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.
• Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products. Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).
• Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chains (e.g., raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics) required to maintain business operations.
o Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or these supply chains are interrupted.
• Set up authorities, triggers, and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s emergency plan, altering business operations (e.g., possibly changing or closing operations in affected areas), and transferring business knowledge to key employees.
• Plan to minimize exposure between employees and also between employees and the public, if public health officials call for social distancing.
• Establish a process to communicate information to employees and business partners on your emergency plans and latest COVID-19 information. Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumors, and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.
• In some communities, early childhood programs and K-12 schools may be dismissed, particularly if COVID-19 worsens.
o Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children if dismissed from school.
o Businesses and other employers should prepare to institute flexible workplace and leave policies for these employees.
• Local conditions will influence the decisions that public health officials make regarding community-level strategies; employers should take the time now to learn about plans in place in each community where they have a business.
• If there is evidence of a COVID-19 outbreak in the US, consider canceling non-essential business travel to additional countries per travel guidance on the CDC website. Travel restrictions may be enacted by other countries which may limit the ability of employees to return home if they become sick while on travel status.
• Consider cancelling large work-related meetings or events.
Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their business emergency plans based on the condition in each locality.
Businesses are encouraged to communicate closely with their local public health departments to ensure they are receiving timely and accurate information regarding COVID-19 activity in their community. In addition, businesses should work with IDPH and/or their local public health to determine appropriate action and notifications if COVID-19 is identified in the workplace.