Communicating With Your Team About the Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted February 10, 2020 by Justworks in Managing Your Team
As health officials continue to investigate the new virus detected in China, and now the U.S., your team is likely to have questions and concerns.

In recent weeks, you have undoubtedly seen headlines about a new form of Coronavirus that’s been identified and is currently under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The World Health Organization (WHO) is also working with experts globally to uncover additional details about the virus to further inform the CDC and the general public.

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.

While the risk of infection in the U.S. remains low, people can—and often do—experience strong feelings of anxiety when it comes to developing health crises. In the workplace, one of the best things you can do to create a sense of safety early on is to make sure your team knows 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 2019-nCoV, 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.

Talk About the Symptoms, Transmission, and Treatment

It’s equally important for your employees to feel equipped with an understanding of the basics about Coronavirus. 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. If your employees are concerned about the risk of such exposure, know that anyone suspected of infection arriving into the U.S. is being isolated and tested. The U.S. State Department has also taken measures to decrease risk by issuing a travel advisory, urging against travel to China. In addition, the CDC continues to work with local authorities to enforce travel bans and set up testing protocols globally, where necessary, to avoid the further spread of the virus to the U.S.

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Make sure your people know, if experiencing potential symptoms, they should feel comfortable seeing a doctor immediately and call ahead to ensure the right precautions are taken.

Explain to Your Employees the Risk for the U.S. is Low

People should find it reassuring that most of the verified cases of Coronavirus worldwide have been outside of the country, and while some cases have been reported in the U.S., the risk of the outbreak spreading within the U.S. is considered low by the CDC and WHO.

Even still, it's important to be prepared. If you suspect upcoming employee business travel may put people at risk of exposure, consider postponing it. If you think personal travel by an employee involves the risk of exposure, make sure you understand and follow a course of action allowed within the law. The actions you can take may differ depending on the CDC’s current classification of the Coronavirus outbreak, which can be found on their website.

Provide Your Team With Trusted Sources of Information

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.

We will update this post when new information about 2019-nCoV 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.