With the number of Coronavirus cases increasing in the United States, it is vital for businesses to monitor the situation, exercise caution and be as prepared as possible to protect the health of their employees.
We understand that each business and industry is affected by the Coronavirus outbreak in a different way, but the Chamber has gathered some suggestions and best practices to consider as you develop plans to keep your employees healthy and your business operating successfully.
Please watch this informative video on COVID-19 FAQs from UT Health San Antonio.
In accordance with CDC guidance for non-healthcare settings, the following suggestions should be implemented immediately:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Employees should follow the normal notification process to inform your organization if they are sick.
- CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
- Use the most effective means of communication available to remind employees of everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs, including:
- Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol.
- Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- Coordinate with your HR Department to ensure your leave and benefit policies are up to date and consider making temporary exceptions to those policy(ies) for those employees who are ill or under self-quarantine but have exhausted their leave or paid time off benefits.
CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019
The Centers for Disease Control has provided information and guidance for employers to prepare for and respond to a possible outbreak of the Coronavirus. This information includes actions employers can implement now and advice for developing a response plan.
Coronavirus Workplace Tips for Employees
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has gathered general workplace health and safety information to share with employees.
Print materials to share with your employees
San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has developed printed materials to share with your employees. Topics include: What is Coronavirus, How to reduce your risk, and Fact Sheets
San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has opened a COVID-19 hotline for residents to ask questions about the virus. The hotline is available in English and Spanish. Residents can call 210-207-5779. (Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
In addition to protecting the health of your employees, we believe it is important for employers to have an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan (IDORP) and be ready to communicate the plan to your employees. When planning, consider the following:
- Develop a business continuity plan: Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chains required to maintain business operations, and plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism in these essential jobs or if these supply chains are interrupted.
- Create an employee communications plan and establish a process to quickly communicate the latest information to employees and business partners.
- Determine whether telecommuting or flexible work hours is an option.
- Determine how to handle spikes in absenteeism due to school closures and/or early childhood programs being dismissed.
- Identify those individuals in your organization that have the authority to activate and/or modify the company’s IDORP, modifying business operations (e.g., possibly changing or closing operations in affected areas), and transferring business knowledge to key employees. Work closely with your local health officials to identify these triggers.
- Consider cancelling non-essential business travel; especially international travel based on travel guidance on the CDC website.
Guidance for Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus
A resource page from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that includes planning considerations for businesses in case of widespread community outbreaks of the coronavirus.
Resilience in a Box
Resilience in a Box is a tool from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation based on best practices to educate businesses on disaster preparedness and business resilience.
Small Business Preparedness Quick Guide
A tool from the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation to help small business owners prepare and organize their disaster preparedness initiative.
Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
A publication from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to help businesses plan, identify risk levels, and determine control measures to implement.
RESOURCES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
We understand that all businesses will feel the effect of the Coronavirus in some way, but small businesses are likely to have unique challenges. If you are a small business owner looking for information and resources, please visit:
SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Texas small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses, and the interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.
Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers tips and resources specifically targeted to small business owners, with information on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, SBA products and resources, and more.
We urge you to be prepared for an outbreak if it comes, to avoid panic, and to make fact-based decisions using guidelines from the experts.
We invite you to share additional information and tips with us here.