The coronavirus has been confirmed in more than 2 million cases in the United States. Many health agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now bracing for a “second wave” that could be worse than the first.
However, with the nationwide economy grinding to a halt due to forced lockdowns, businesses of all sizes and types have closed or are facing the real threat of shuttering. To try to restart the economy and scale back the 40 million or more American unemployment cases, counties across the country are being encouraged to reopen with minimal restrictions. The notion is a bit of a gambit, as reopening too soon could worsen the pandemic further, prolonging lockdowns and increasing unemployment rates.
Precautions for Going Back to Work
Are you employed by a company that is aiming to go back to business close to something “normal” soon, despite the continuing spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 cases? You are probably in a difficult position between two tough decisions: return to work as you are scheduled, or possibly lose your job. If you have decided to head back into the workplace, then now is certainly the time to act with additional precautions to minimize your risk of coronavirus exposure.
Remember these safety tips for when you return to work soon:
- Check yourself at home: Before you even head to work, you should conduct a symptom check at home. Have you been coughing and/or fatigued lately? Use a thermometer to take your temperature. Does it report a fever? If you have any of these common symptoms of COVID-19, then call your employer and let them know. Ask if you have any sick pay or PTO that can be used that allows you to stay home for a few days to monitor your symptoms.
- Wear a mask: Bring a facemask with you that you can wear whenever you are near another person, whether they are a coworker or customer. If your workplace is predictably busy with foot traffic, then you should wear your mask at all times. Your employer should also be willing to provide you and any customers or clients with disposable facemasks. If your employer does not want you wearing a mask, then you should insist upon wearing one to preserve your own health. Employment law protects you from discrimination based on health concerns and retaliation for standing up for your rights.
- Keep hand sanitizer on-hand: Small hand sanitizer bottles will be incredibly useful during your shift. Keep one in your pocket or at your desk. Use hand sanitizer after any interaction with another person or while touching anything else that someone else might have touched. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently stated that it believed most cases were contracted after the patient touched a contaminated surface – i.e. one with spit, mucus, or phlegm on it – and then touched their own eyes, nose, or mouth. Cleaning your hands routinely can drastically reduce your chances of inadvertently spreading the virus to yourself.
- Maintain 6-foot distance: Keep any interactions with customers and coworkers to a minimum and try to maintain a 6-foot distance. If you work in the service industry, then it could be a challenge to stay away from people most of the day. Yet there are some steps your employer can consider to help everyone stay safe. For example, some eateries are asking customers to place orders via phone calls, even if they plan on eating there. In many dining situations, servers spend the most time by a table as orders are being taken and eaters choose what they want. By making this process “remote,” the majority of exposure risks can be bypassed.
- Know your workers’ compensation coverage: Some states have passed emergency rules to allow more workers to file for workers’ compensation after contracting COVID-19 at work. Most of these regulations apply if the claimant was officially diagnosed with the virus within 14 days of being at work. Not all states have adopted lenient or any coronavirus workers’ comp rules, though. You should research to see if your state has any of these rules. Or you should know the name of a trustworthy workers’ compensation attorney ahead of time.
If you live in Orange County, California and need help figuring out your rights as a worker who possibly contracted the coronavirus as your workplace reopened, Alvandi Law Group, P.C. and our workers’ comp lawyers can help. You might be able to receive benefits to help keep you afloat while you take time off to rest and recuperate. Dial (800) 980-6905. We are taking new cases still by using online and remote methods, such as video teleconferencing.