July 27, 2020 – Many employers are strategically reopening their workplaces based on local regulations and the nature of their business.  As workers return and adjust to COVID-19 safety precautions, many business owners are putting plans in place in the event an employee gets sick.  Businesses are also planning for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.

As property management professionals, Beck Partners is well-aware of the issues facing local and regional businesses.  The following CDC-based guidance offers business and property owners recommendations for planning for employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Ask all employees to monitor their own health,  and encourage anyone who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home.  If an employee calls in sick, ask them if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (e.g. fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat).

If an employee  arrives at the office sick or becomes sick while at work, whether or not they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, send them home.  An employee who appears to have symptoms upon arrival at work or who becomes sick during the day should immediately be separated from others, preferably in a room or area that can be isolated behind a closed door, and asked to avoid touch people, surfaces, or objects. If not already using a face mask, the employee should be provided one. Assist the employee in making arrangements to return home, minimizing potential contact with others, and provide CDC guidance on managing COVID-19 symptoms at home.

If an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, notify coworkers of their possible exposure without revealing the employee’s identity.  Employers should be aware of any requirements to notify local or state health authorities.  The CDC advises that individuals with symptoms should self-isolate; and those with no symptoms should remain at home and practice social distancing for 14 days. It is also prudent to notify clients, vendors, or other guests who may have been exposed to the diagnosed employee of the diagnosis. Be aware that a confirmed case of COVID-19 may create anxiety among co-workers so it is important to be supportive and understanding of their concerns.

Protect the privacy of the diagnosed employee.  The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the confidentiality of employees’ medical information, and employers may not disclose the identity of the employee diagnosed with COVID-19. Employers also must adhere to HIPAA guidelines and maintain the privacy of any health information they gather related to an employee’s medical condition or their symptoms.

Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after anyone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in the workplace. The CDC advises that areas visited by the ill person be closed off, that outside doors and windows be opened if possible, and that ventilating fans be used to increase air circulation in the area. Wait 24 hours or as long as practical before beginning the process of cleaning and disinfection. The cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment (like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines) used by the ill person, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces. If it has been seven or more days since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection beyond routine efforts is not necessary.

Do not permit the diagnosed employee to return to work until the individual is free of symptoms, has met the criteria to discontinue home isolation, and has been cleared by a health care provider and/or health department. The CDC advises that it may be unrealistic in the current health climate to expect a formal return to work certification from a primary care doctor, but employers may rely upon a form from a local clinic or an email from such a facility to confirm the employee does not have the virus.

Stay informed.  With COVID-19, the environment is changing frequently. Beck Partners is committed to adhering to CDC and OSHA guidelines and directives from local and state health agencies.

Useful Resources:

CDC Guidelines: Businesses and Workplaces

CDC Guidelines: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility: Everyday Steps, Steps When Someone Is Sick, and Considerations for Employers

CDC Frequently Asked Questions: Suspected or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in the Workplace OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

EEOC: Coronavirus and COVID 19

About Beck Partners: Beck Partners is headquartered in Pensacola, Florida, with additional offices in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Mobile. Beck Partners is an innovative real estate and insurance services firm doing business in the Southeast for over 30 years. It is the only Gulf Coast firm offering Real Estate, Property Management, and Insurance service under one roof.  Beck Partners’ unique combination of integrated services allows our team to collaborate openly, share ideas and provide critical solutions with speed and efficiency.