On Wednesday, February 26th, the CDC reported the first case of COVID-19 where the source of the chain is, as yet, unknown. That might indicate that community spread of the virus is going undetected in California.
Regardless, the CDC has warned that spread of the virus is inevitable; Connecticut joined the chorus on Wednesday preaching preparedness.
Employers that have overseas operations have already started to think of these issues. Complying with requirements in China, or Italy seem to change daily and the advice seems to get tweaked as well.
And while employers need to be aware of the laws that will apply, the fact remains that the issues that employers have to deal with are far more complex. There are literally hundreds of questions on the table. What are just some of those questions?
- Suppose an employee’s child gets sick with suspected COVID-19. Should the employee be barred from the workplace during the incubation period? And if so, are you prepared to pay the employee? Under what circumstances would you tell an employee to stay home? How would you deal with multiple requests at multiple times?
- How do you deal with employee travel if COVID-19 spreads? Can you require an employee to travel to New York, merely if there are cases of COVID-19 there? Are you cancelling all your sales retreats?
- It’s easy to tell employers to just have employees work from home if cases develop in a town or region, but for how long?
- And what do you do for jobs where someone needs to be there? And when do you start to consider layoffs if and when demand drops?
- When social distancing measures are encouraged, how do you accomplish that in a workplace with confined spaces? Will you provide more hand santizers?
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. When I posted about this five weeks ago, I said that “while it seems too early to implement any measures in the United States at present, employers may want to at least start having conversations about the “what ifs” with the novel coronavirus.”
A few thought I was being a bit aggressive with such advice. Now, perhaps, it can be seen as being prudent. The window for preparation seems to be closing and I would not be surprised to see us moving into the action phase within the next month.
For those looking for more resources in Connecticut, the state just launched a new resource page. Take a look and continue asking the questions if and when this virus starts to take hold in the state.