COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus, is spreading rapidly, and the government is responding with new guidelines. Late afternoon on Tuesday, March 17, Orange County’s County Health
Officer Nichole Quick issued a
Health Officer’s Order
today, effective immediately, to protect the health and well being of Orange County residents. The Order is accessible
PROHIBITS ALL PRIVATE GATHERINGS
of any number of people, whether professional, social, communal, or religious, excluding only essential personnel and essential activities, which are defined in the Order.
This Order is mandatory, and all Orange County residents and businesses must comply
, and it’s effective (at this point) through the end of March.
Similarly, on Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a public order that included measures prohibiting restaurants, bars, and onsite retail food locations to close their dining rooms and only sell take out/delivery food items.
In Northern CA, six counties have issued similar orders through April 7.
Yesterday the CDC and the White House released a highly restrictive set of new
and directions for the next 15 days designed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 including avoiding, cancelling, and/or postponing gatherings of 10 or more people. The CDC is essentially urging an extreme social distancing public policy, or, in other words:
everyone stay home
. The CDC’s goal is to slow transmission to a certain extent so that there are sufficient hospital beds and medical supplies to treat the onset of the disease. An explanation of the CDC’s models and statistical analysis that have led to the federal government’s current stringent public policy can be found
The U. S. Congress is working on a series of response bills to pay for COVID-19 testing and treatment and to counter the effects of a policy of staying home. The Senate is likely to vote on HR 6201 tonight or tomorrow morning. We will update you as we learn more.
The following are responses to some of the questions we have frequently received, based on information to date:
Q. Can we temporarily close the business? Should we?
A. You may temporarily close your business. When it comes to deciding whether to close a business, every situation is unique and must be evaluated on a case by case basis. We recommend closely reviewing the CDC’s guidelines to determine the risk of spread and infection.
Q. What if an employee appears sick? Can I send the employee home or require the employee stay home?
A. We recommend sending each employee home that appears sick for any reason. Such action is permissible. If an employee appears sick and is sent home, the employee may use any available accrued paid sick leave. If the employee is sick for a period of time, s/he should ask a doctor about applying for State Disability Insurance.
Q. Must we pay an employee that we send home or employees who that do not work because we cancelled shifts or temporarily closed our business?
A. It depends. If a non-exempt employee is sent home for lack of available work or to reduce the risk of transmission, please check to see if the employee is owed Reporting Pay (e.g. Show Up Pay) as defined in the Wage Orders. If a non-exempt employee’s future shifts are cancelled because of lack of available work or business closure, you are not required to pay the non-exempt employee. We recommend allowing such non-exempt employees use available accrued paid sick leave or vacation for the missed time.
If an exempt employee does any work within a workweek, the exempt employee must be paid for the entire workweek, subject to certain narrow exceptions.
Q. Can we test an employee or take their temperature?
A. No. Doing so violates several laws. If an employee appears sick, we recommend sending them home. You are permitted to ask the employee to seek medical attention.
Q. An employee of ours tested positive for COVID-19, what do we do?
A. Request each employee who has been in contact with the infected employee to seek medical attention and recommend self-quarantine for 14 days. Send anyone home who has been in contact with the infected employee without identifying the infected employee and recommend they seek medical attention and self-quarantine for 14 days.
Q. What steps can we take to minimize risk of transmission?
A. Follow the CDC’s guidelines, including generally:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with others, especially those who are sick.
- Refrain from shaking hands with others for the time being.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Perhaps the most important message you can give to employees: stay home when you are sick. Employers should also:
- Ensure that employees have ample facilities to wash their hands, including tepid water and soap, and that third-party cleaning/custodial schedules are accelerated.
- Evaluate your remote work capacities and policies. Teleconference or use other remote work tools in lieu of meeting in person if available. WE RECOMMEND ADOPTING A TELECOMMUTING POLICY AND HAVING EACH EMPLOYEE THAT WORKS REMOTELY SIGN AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RECEIPT OF THE COMPANY’S TELECOMMUTING POLICY WHEN ALLOWING EMPLOYEES TO WORK REMOTELY. We can assist with this.
- Consider staggering employee starting and departing times, along with lunch and break periods, to minimize overcrowding in common areas such as elevators, break rooms, etc.
- Communicate using technology instead of face to face contact whenever possible, even within the office.
- Have a single point of contact for employees for all concerns that arise relating to health and safety.
- Follow updates from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding additional precautions.
- You may reference OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic for additional information on preparing for an outbreak.
We know these are challenging times. If we can answer any questions or provide support in any way, please reach out. We're here for you!