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COVID-19 Latest Updates

Friday, March 13, 2020 by Brian Anderson

At the Greater Akron Chamber, we understand the impact that disruptions and uncertainty can have on our business community.  Therefore, we’re working to compile relevant information to help our businesses minimize the impact of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease.  Below are actions that you can take, or continue to take, to put yourselves in a stronger position to manage through this event.  This (4+ minute) video by the World Health Organization is an excellent summary of what is currently known about the COVID-19 coronavirus.  By taking action to separate and educate people and to prepare and repair your environment, both local and federal health experts agree you’ll reduce the risks to your employees, customers, and business.

Because the virus that causes COVID-19 can pass person-to-person, commonly through respiratory particles (i.e. coughing and sneezing), physically separating people will significantly reduce the risk of transmission.  Any employee who is sick, or who otherwise exhibits symptoms associated with the COVID-19 disease, such as respiratory illness or fever, should stay home.  Utilizing existing flexible paid sick-leave or remote work-from-home policies, or else implementing them – even if on a short-term basis – if none currently exist in your business, will increase the likelihood of ill or potentially ill employees self-identifying as ill, and avoiding coming to work, thereby reducing the risk of transmission across the rest of the office. This is especially important in the food services industry, where removing the economic incentive for ill employees to come to work can have a tremendous positive impact on reducing transmission of this virus.  For additional consideration on altering work-from-home or sick-leave policies during this health event, click here.

Beyond enabling ill or potentially ill employees to avoid coming to work, physically separating the employees that do come into work, to the extent possible, can further reduce the risk of transmission.  Opting to hold meetings via telephone or video conference, rather than gathering in a conference room, for example; enabling work-from-home opportunities; and other measures can go a long way to reduce risk, as individuals may contract the coronavirus and not exhibit symptoms for days.  We have, like many other organizations, postponed a large gathering we are hosting, and encourage careful consideration of what types of gatherings are essential or not.  Harvard Business Review contributors suggest that managers should not hesitate to keep potentially symptomatic or high-risk individuals separated or away, be they employees or visitors. 

Beyond separating people, education is crucial.  At the Chamber we’re not shying away from “over doing it,” fully adopting the CDC’s guidance on proper hygiene etiquette and keeping our environment clean.  We’re reminding each other ad nauseum to wash hands often and sufficiently (i.e. scrubbing with soap lather for at least 20 seconds) – for a helpful poster to circulate, click here.  We’re bringing extra attention to proper coughing and sneezing etiquette: try to do so into a tissue – thoroughly washing your hands immediately after, as well as disinfecting any surfaces touched during the process – and if unable to use a tissue, cough or sneeze into the sleeve of your upper arm.  For more information on proper coughing or sneezing etiquette, click here.

The CDC recommends repeatedly disinfecting your workplace, so we’re spraying and wiping-down common surfaces like doorknobs, countertops, restrooms, and workstations.  While certain cleaning products seem to be flying off the shelves, and you might not have a full stock of everything you want on-hand, it is critical to go over common surfaces to the extent possible, as the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for several hours at least (for more information on environmental cleaning and disinfection recommendations, click here). 

For help navigating the various HR-related decisions we have to make given the evolving circumstances and recommendations from local and national leaders, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) weighed in on what managers should and should not do.  These SHRM resources, including memo templates on illness prevention, travel suspension, and telecommuting arrangements; policy recommendations; and HR-related news updates can help you manage your business through this pandemic.

The National Small Business Association (NSBA) is holding a briefing call on Monday, March 16, 2020, at 1pm ET.  The topic of the call will be the coronavirus and what it means for small businesses.  You can find more information and a link to register for the call here.

Lastly, the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is receiving additional funding for its Disaster Assistance Loans, which can help small businesses cover various expenses, including operating costs, in response to a disaster.  Information on their Economic Injury Loans and other funding available that can help alleviate the effects of COVID-19 on businesses, click here.

Following these basic guidelines from the CDC and business leaders will help reduce our risks and curtail the spread of this virus and disease.  If you have further questions, concerns, or recommendations, we’d like to hear from you.
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2020 by Brian Anderson | with 89 comments

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