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By Heather Stith

May 29, 2020

Early on in my hc1 career, my then manager quoted President Dwight Eisenhower in response to questions about changing software development priorities, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s plans for work in 2020, but having a strong planning process in place is more important than ever as state and local governments, employers, and workers begin to reopen workplaces. 

Making a Plan

With varying levels of detail, federal guidance from the president, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines what a workplace pandemic planning process requires.

  • Collecting and evaluating current healthcare data and resources: The president’s guidelines for state and local governments specify trends in the number of reported flu-like illnesses, documented COVID-19 cases, and percentage of positive COVID-19 test results as key data points to track when determining when to begin the reopening process. Important resources include testing availability, hospital capacity, and supply levels of medical and personal protective equipment. Because risk varies widely depending on what area of the country you are in, the federal government emphasizes evaluating risk based on local health information.
  • Monitoring health benchmarks and reassessing risk: The president’s guidelines highlight monitoring as an important responsibility in order to head off outbreaks and rebounds. At the government level, this involves looking at trends in hospitalizations and positivity rates. At the workplace level, employers may need to monitor employee symptoms with temperature checks or self-reporting. Quarantine periods will have to be enforced after travel or potential exposure to COVID-19. 
  • Adjusting plans and policies to fit the level of local, organizational, and individual risk: The OSHA guidance categorizes jobs into 4 levels of risk from very high exposure risk healthcare workers who are doing procedures on COVID-19 patients to lower exposure risk for jobs that do not require people to interact in close proximity to one another or the general public. Each level of risk involves different recommendations. Workplaces will have to be assessed and modified to minimize risk. For example, ventilation systems may have to be improved or barriers added to reduce potential exposure. Individual workers might have increased risk of exposure to the virus due to factors such as using mass transit or living with someone who has a high exposure risk job. Also, individual workers may have increased risk  of serious illness if they get COVID-19 due to having chronic diseases, such as diabetes or asthma; having compromised immunity because of medical treatment, pregnancy, or  other condition; or being older than 65. These workers may require modified schedules or continued teleworking.
  • Informing people of actions they need to take to protect themselves and others and providing resources to do so: At the government and large organization level, this involves the ability to test symptomatic or at-risk people and trace the contacts of those who test positive. Workers may need additional training on new procedures. Employers will likely need to revise their sick-leave policies and invest in disinfectant cleaners, tissues, gloves, masks, and handwashing signage.

Managing the Plan

Putting these plans into practice will generate a lot of data, and this data will need to be tracked, integrated, and reported on to inform decisions at every organizational level while COVID-19 continues to be a significant risk. hc1 stands at the ready with the hc1 Workforce Advisor™ solution:

  • The CV19 Command Center collects employee test results directly from the lab and presents the data in a way to make it easier to quickly evaluate the risks at different workplace locations. 
  • The Local Risk Index™ (LRI) benchmark allows the employer to track changes over time and understand if the local acceleration or deceleration of COVID-19 supports relaxing or intensifying mitigation and testing efforts at the office location.
  • The CV19 Digital ID allows for secure sharing of employee status information.

Request a demo for hc1 Workforce Advisor now.

References and Resources:

  1. The White House. (Accessed 26 May 2020.) Guidelines for Opening Up America Again. https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed 26 May 2020.) Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease, May 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
  3. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (Accessed 26 May 2020.)  Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Updated 3 May 2020.) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) General Business Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/general-business-faq.html
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