As of March 6, more than 100,000 cases have been confirmed globally – over 41,000 cases are currently active and over 59,000 are closed. Of the closed cases, 55,995 persons recovered and more than 3,400 died, mostly in mainland China. The US now has more than 230 confirmed cases in 21 states, with 14 deaths. In New York, 22 cases have been confirmed so far.

The CDC’s “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers” caution employers not to make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin, and to maintain the confidentiality of those with confirmed COVID-19.

The Interim Guidance states that employers must consider how to best decrease the spread of illness in the workplace. Some key considerations:

• Disease severity (i.e., number of people who are sick, hospitalization and death rates) in the community where the workplace is located;

• Impact of disease on employees who are vulnerable and may be at higher risk for COVID-19 adverse health complications. Inform employees that some people may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions and respiratory issues.

• Prepare for possible 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 (such closures are beginning to occur in the New York metro area)

• Employees who are not feeling well should be encouraged to work from home where possible. Hourly wage employees are reticent to stay home as they often do not receive paid sick leave.

Based on CDC guidance, Interfor recommends employers create an “Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan,” stating that all employers should be prepared to implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations. Recommendations include:

• Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees

• Review human resources policies to ensure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws

• 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. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or these supply chains are interrupted

Interfor recommends avoiding all travel to China and Iran as well as nonessential travel to South Korea, Italy, Mongolia, Japan, Hong Kong and Macau. Travel plans to developing countries should be re-evaluated for necessity.

To mitigate the risk of infection individuals should implement the following best practices:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a disposable tissue and throw it in the trash. If you do not have a tissue available sneeze or cough into your arm or clothing not your hand.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.

• Stay home if you are sick unless it is necessary to seek medical attention.

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

For more information on employer strategies visit: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

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