Reopening the Economy: a Three Phase Approach

In mid-March, national guidelines that were intended to help slow the spread of COVID-19, coronavirus. The guidelines included sheltering in place, avoiding nonessential travel, not gathering in large groups, and asking states to close bars and restaurants. Most states implemented their own stay-at-home orders, all of which have varying expiration dates, some of which continue to extend beyond their initial expiration. In mid-April, the federal government released guidelines for reopening parts of the economy, however they are leaving it up to the discretion of sate governors to make the final call.

The federal guidelines for Opening Up America Again is a three-phased approach established with public health experts. “These steps will help state and local officials when reopening economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.” (Guidelines, Opening up America Again). Phase One can start after states have seen a decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases over a 14 day period, and cases should continue to fall for an additional two weeks before moving to the next phase. The plan includes guidelines for both individuals and businesses, but for the purpose of this newsletter, we will include just the business guidelines. Before beginning phase one, states and regions must meet certain criteria. The approach is based on up-to-date data and readiness, is developed in such a way to mitigate risk of another outbreak, protects those most vulnerable and is implementable on a state-wide or county-by-county basis at governors discretion.

Phase 1 for Businesses:

  • Continue to encourage employees to telecommute whenever possible
  • If possible, return to work in phases. Consider staggered and rotating schedules.
  • Restrict the use of or close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact. If not possible, enforce strict social distancing protocols.
  • Minimize non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
  • Consider making special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population*. 

*Elderly individuals, and Individuals with serious underlying health conditions ( high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy).

Phase 2 for Businesses:

  • Continue to encourage employees to telecommute whenever possible
  • Restrict the use of or close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, otherwise enforce moderate social distancing protocols.
  • Consider making special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population. 

Phase 3 for Businesses:

  • Resume unrestricted staffing at worksites

There is guidance for businesses throughout all of the phases. The first is that businesses should develop and implement appropriate policies that are in accordance with Federal, State, and local regulations and guidance. The policies should also be informed by industry best practices, regarding social distancing and the use of protective equipment, temperature checks, sanitation, use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas and business travel. The second is that businesses should monitor their workforce for symptoms that may be indicative of COVID-19, and should not allow symptomatic individuals to physically return to work until they are cleared by a medical provider. Last, businesses should develop and implement policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing following an employee COVID+ test. This means that employers should continue to ask infected employees to identify all individuals who worked in close proximity (within six feet) for a prolonged period of time (10 minutes or more to 30 minutes or more depending upon particular circumstances, such as how close the employees worked and whether they shared tools or other items) with them during the 48-hour period before the onset of symptoms. Employers should send home all employees who worked closely with the infected employee to ensure the infection does not spread.

There is also guidance for individuals who are strongly encouraged to continue to adhere to State and local guidance as well as CDC guidance, especially in regards to wearing face coverings. This means two things. The first is that individuals should continue to practice good hygiene including washing hands, not touching one’s face, sneezing or coughing into your elbow or a tissue, wiping down commonly used items and surfaces with disinfectant and wearing face coverings while in public and on mass transit. The second is that if an individual feels sick, they should stay home and follow the advice of their medical care provider.

 

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