March 2020 - HR ALERT!

The first case of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has been confirmed in New York State.  This brief Q&A provides some basics about the illness, and what you need to know as an employer:

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a new respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan, China. The virus is contagious and potentially fatal. It is suspected that it is transmitted through coughing and sneezing by infected individuals. At the present time, there is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment.

How is coronavirus spread?

Health authorities have not confirmed how coronavirusis transmitted but suspect it is spread person-to-person. There is also evidence that the virus has been spread by animal sources, including individuals with links to seafood or animal markets. They do not believe you can get it from air, water or food.

How many people survive coronavirus?

Currently, coronavirus has a fatality rate of less than 3 percent. As such, the majority of those affected so far have survived the disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of coronavirus?

Individuals infected with coronavirus have displayed the following symptoms:

  • Mild to severe respiratory illness.
  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Death.

How infectious is coronavirus?

Virus transmission may happen on a spectrum, and authorities are not sure if the virus is highly contagious or less so. For person-to-person transmission, health authorities suspect the virus is spread through coughing and sneezing, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens are spread.

The incubation period, or the time interval from infection to onset of symptoms, is from two to 14 days. During this period, an individual can be infected and spreading the disease although they may not be experiencing the signs and symptoms of the virus.

How can I protect myself?

Because there is currently no vaccine to prevent infection, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC recommends the following additional steps:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What happens if I suspect I or someone I know has coronavirus?

If you exhibit symptoms of coronavirus within two weeks of traveling from China, you should contact a health care professional and mention your recent travel. If you have had close contact with someone exhibiting coronavirus symptoms who has recently traveled from China, you should call ahead to a health care professional and mention your close contact and the person's recent travel. Your health care professional will work with your state's public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for coronavirus.

Should I consider quarantining employees, or having employees remain off work, who have recently returned from China?

You should consider telling employees returning from China that they should remain away from work for 14 days from their return. You can also consider telling the employees to self-monitor for any symptoms of coronavirus. If any of these symptoms occur, employees should consider being evaluated by a health care provider. Further, even if not symptomatic, employees may also want to consult a health care provider to confirm that they are not infectious before returning to work.

Should I consider providing information to my employees about the coronavirus?

Yes. Information is available at no cost on the CDC's website or Read Here for more information.

Source: SHRM

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