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Industry News, From the PHP Team

Pandemic preparedness tips for employers

PHP is partnering with the Allen County Department of Health, Indiana State Department of Health and the CDC, to monitor the COVID-19 situation regionally and ensure the safety of the community.

The World Health Organization declared a public health emergency for the United States on Jan. 31, 2020 to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus disease.

PHP is partnering with the Allen County Department of Health, Indiana State Department of Health and the CDC, to monitor the situation regionally and ensure the safety of the community. PHP is committed to gathering the necessary information and resources and sharing the findings with employer groups in a timely manner.

“By actively working with the Allen County Department of Health and attending the COVID- 19 Advisory Group Meetings, PHP is able to gather information from a large cross-section of our community. Every sector of our community including faith based organizations, large and small businesses, retail and service organizations provided insights and points of consideration. It is our goal to collaborate and work together with community leaders and business partners to plan for any disruption caused by the COVID-19 virus,” says Gail Doran, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, PHP.

The following guidance has been provided by the Allen County Department of Health to help prevent workplace exposures to illnesses such as COVID-19. It also provides planning considerations for employers in the event of an outbreak.

Incorporate these strategies immediately

  1. Actively encourage your sick employees to stay home.
    1. Employees with symptoms of acute respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath) are recommended to stay home until fever free for at least 24 hours (without the use of any fever-reducing medications).
    2. Ensure sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidelines and that employees are aware of these policies.
    3. Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees sick with acute respiratory illness to validate illness or return to work. Healthcare provider offices may be extremely busy and unable to provide documentation in a timely fashion.
    4. Consider maintaining flexible policies to allow your employees to stay home with a sick family member or children if school has been canceled.
  2. Separate sick employees.
    1. Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms upon arrival to work or become sick during the day, should be separated from other employees and sent home immediately.
  3. Encourage respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene.
    1. Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for your employee use.
    2. Post signs in common areas encouraging frequent hand-washing and respiratory etiquette (cover your cough).
    3. Provide adequate soap and water and alcohol-based sanitizers throughout your workplace.
  4. Perform frequent, routine environmental cleaning.
    1. Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as work stations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use cleaning agents typically used and follow all directions on the label.
  5. Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps.
    1. Check the CDC’s travel website for updated information related to high-, medium- and low-risk geographic areas. Encourage all employees to ensure necessary precautions have been taken before traveling (vaccinations, anti-malarial medications, etc.).
    2. Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or soon after returning, understand they should check themselves for respiratory symptoms and notify their supervisor and healthcare provider immediately.
    3. The situation is evolving every day, so employees need to be prepared to return to the possibility of a 14-day quarantine if they are visiting a high- or medium-risk location.

Important considerations for creating an infectious disease plan

In the event of an outbreak, it’s vital that your company has a policy in place for your employees to follow. Below are some considerations to keep in mind as you develop your infectious disease plan.

  • Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees.
  • Review human resource policies to make sure practices are consistent with public health recommendations and existing state and federal workplace laws.
  • Explore the possibility of establishing new policies for flexible worksites and flexible work hours. Allowing employees to work from home or staggering hours to limit the number of people present in the office at one time, can greatly decrease the risk of disease transmission.
  • Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chain required to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is an exceptional number of absences or an interruption in your supply chain.
  • Establish a process to communicate your company Infectious Disease Plan with your staff ahead of time, if possible.
  • In some communities, schools may be dismissed, particularly if COVID-19 worsens. 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.
  • Consider canceling all non-essential business travel to additional countries per travel guidance on the CDC website.

In an effort to reduce resource constraints on the local health systems, we encourage you to remind your PHP members to utilize our telehealth resources, Parkveiw OnDemand and MyNurse 24/7, if they are experiencing mild symptoms.

For up-to-date information, please visit the following sources:

For guidance developing a Pandemic Preparedness Plan, download this helpful checklist created by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) here.