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BioCommunique Article

Public Health Nurse from San Diego County’s Health & Human Services shares top preventative actions and cautious measures companies should be adopting.

Coronavirus Roundtable: HHSA Response and Company Prevention Measures

  • 2020-03-10T01:00:00.000+0000
  • California
  • Author: Melanie Cohn

How is your company preparing for and responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? On March 6th Biocom brought together industry Environmental Health & Safety managers from companies of all sizes in San Diego to discuss just that.

A Public Health Nurse from the County’s Health & Human Services agency began the program by sharing a presentation with up to date information as of that morning. The presentation dispelled common concerns; as a matter of fact, coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate symptoms similar to the common cold, and most people will get a coronavirus infection at some point in their lives.

Based on current information, people only need to be evaluated for COVID-19 if they have traveled to an area affected by the virus in the last 14 days or had close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19; AND develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness.

The County encouraged companies to share information with their employees regarding routine preventative actions such as washing hands for 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, avoiding people who are sick, and staying home from work when you are sick. Face masks are NOT recommended for the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

When discussing business travel policies, almost all the attendees shared that their companies have implemented a “non-essential travel ban.” Extra precautions taken include: daily “fogging” or the use of an electrostatic sprayer such as Clorox 360; regularly disinfecting door handles, elevator buttons, and common area surfaces; and, communicating company procedures with contractors and vendors. EH&S managers have also put up extra signage with graphics on how to wash hands properly.

Most companies are allowing their employees to stay home from work if they feel sick without being docked for PTO/sick time. While companies don’t generally employ health care personnel on site, many have contracted with a company such as Medcore that can provide health consulting services for EH&S personnel and employees.

The group shared life science specific impacts to their companies, such as limiting access to aseptic areas and more closely monitoring employees who have access to these areas. Also, when and how to log COVID-19 concerns with the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, biosafety in labs, and additional precautions for chemical storage.

Biocom has assembled resources for our members at http://www.biocom.org/coronavirus/.

We also encourage companies to visit government agency websites specific to workplace safety, including:
World Health Organization – Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19
Occupational Safety & Health Administration – Resources for laboratory workers and employers (scroll halfway down the page)
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Interim guidance for businesses and employers
Governor’s Office of Business & Economic Development – Information for employers and employees

You can reach out to Biocom’s Director of Regional Policy & Government Affairs, Melanie Cohn, with any questions about the COVID-19 roundtable and future EH&S meetings.