The actions taken against the new form of coronavirus have become a global effort as countries all over the world work to put resources and plans in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. Amidst these efforts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are continuing to work with experts to expand our knowledge of the virus and how to treat the illness it causes.
Given the increased risk of exposure in the U.S., people might experience strong feelings of anxiety when it comes to developing health crises. As an employer, one of the best things you can do for your employees to create a sense of safety early on is to make sure they know where to go to get trustworthy, up-to-date, and accurate information.
This previously unknown virus, classified by the CDC as 2019 Novel Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, was first detected in Wuhan, China. Given its global nature, we suggest sharing both the CDC and WHO resources as a reference for employees moving forward.
Discuss Symptoms, Transmission, and Treatment
It’s equally important for your employees to feel equipped with an understanding of the basics about the coronavirus. The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) itself causes the disease known as COVID-19. This disease or infection can present as a respiratory illness with fever, cough, and breathing difficulties as common symptoms.
The CDC has confirmed that the virus is spread between people via respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. Given the widespread concern about the risk of exposure, people across the globe are being asked to practice social distancing, or actively limiting person-to-person interaction and avoiding congregating in large groups. Anyone suspected of infection that is living in or arriving to the U.S. is being isolated and tested.
The U.S. has also taken measures to decrease risk by suspending travel to and from many European countries. Many other countries have also put temporary restrictions on travelers to lessen the risk of exposure. In addition, the CDC continues to work with local authorities to enforce travel bans and set up testing protocols globally, where necessary, to limit the further spread of the virus as much as possible.
Make sure your people know that, if experiencing potential symptoms, they should first call their doctor or another medical professional. Based on the presenting symptoms and their severity, people suspected of having contracted the virus may be directed to either self-quarantine in their home or seek medical care outside fo their home. When in doubt, your employees should rely on the advice of medical professionals to ensure the right care is administered and the right precautions are taken.
Explain the Risk for Exposure vs. Illness
It’s important to understand the difference between exposure to and illness from COVID-19. While it’s possible to become exposed to the virus, not everyone who is infected will experience illness. Some people may be carriers of the virus without exhibiting any symptoms.
There are specific groups of people that are more susceptible to experiencing severe symptoms from the COVID-19 infection. Older adults and those with preexisting health conditions appear to experience more severe symptoms, whereas healthy individuals are less likely to experience severe, if any, symptoms. Healthy individuals who contract the virus may be asked to recover from less severe symptoms at home in an effort to allow higher-risk patients more access to medical care.
Limiting exposure is a crucial step in controlling the spread of COVID-19. It’s important for your employees to understand their part in helping to limit further spread in their communities by following the guidelines put forth by local and national government officials in accordance with recommendations given by the CDC and WHO.
Provide Your Team With Trusted Sources
Multiple worldwide investigations are ongoing and, as a result, information about the virus continues to evolve quickly. As with any developing story, reporting of misinformation by news media and other sources is possible.
Talk to your team about the importance of checking information—especially that which seems serious or alarming—against trusted sources like the CDC and WHO. These agencies are leading a global effort to control Coronavirus and they will publish only the most accurate updates and details regarding symptoms of infection, what to do if you think you’ve contracted the virus, and any recommended preventative measures people can take to avoid exposure.
Employees seeking additional guidance can also turn to their specific health insurance carrier, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or primary care provider for trusted, reliable information, as well as more details on related covered services.
Update — 3/16/20
Recent updates around COVID-19 include changes in the classification of the situation and actions taken to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The CDC now classifies the situation as a pandemic, meaning there is a global outbreak of the COVID-19 disease. Government officials across the globe have begun taking actions to limit further spread of the coronavirus. These actions include travel bans, quarantines, and business closures.
With the number of verified cases increasing in the U.S., local officials are also urging everyone to practice good hygiene and social distancing in their communities to help limit exposure and spread.
We will update this post when new information about COVID-19 becomes available.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.