In recent days there have been a lot of questions about what you should do if you have an employee that tests positive for COVID-19. There has been no clear step-by-step direction from regulatory agencies as to how you should precede other than what the patient who tested positive should do. This is partly due to the fact that this does require regulatory action on the part of inspection agencies.
In phone calls with the USDA Office of Food Safety and FSIS, the agency is directing us to use the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines for businesses. An employee that tests positive for the virus does not affect the food being produced; the virus does not spread in food or food packaging, it spreads person to person. There are a number of ways a company can choose to address the situation and that varies from business to business depending on a number of circumstances.
The main questions to ask yourselves are: How do I protect the rest of my employees and how many of them have had close contact with the infected employee? Remember, just because someone is exposed to the virus it does not mean they have it or will become sick from it. The decisions that need to be made after an employee has tested positive can be very difficult, so it is in the best interest of you and your employees to do everything you can to remain healthy. Preventing infection should be the number one priority of you and your staff during this time.
There are a number of ways that you can mitigate the risks to your employees while taking care of the needs of your customers.
Emphasize hand washing and cleaning with your staff. You may want to assign someone to wipe down heavily used surfaces with recommended cleaner.
Consider dividing your employees into teams that work different hours. This will cut down on the overall exposure of your work staff if someone does get the virus. The exposure would be limited to the team they work on.
With retail establishments, look at reducing your employees’ contact with customers by offering call-ahead ordering and payment along with curbside pick-up. Employees can place orders at the car for customers and not have direct contact with surfaces touched by the customer.
Reduce your hours of retail business. This reduces not only the amount of exposure to your staff, but also allows them time to rest and remain healthy enough to fight the virus.
These are just a few ideas and there are probably others that some of you are doing. Feel free to share them with us and we will look at ways to share them with others. We want to make sure that you have all the information and support you need during this time. We have created a COVID-19 resource page on the AAMP website. You can access it by visiting the homepage or at www.aamp.com/coronavirusupdates/. There is a wealth of helpful information there for you, including all the CDC recommendations for businesses, as well as information from other agencies.
If you cannot find something or have a question, please reach out to us at the AAMP office. You are not in this alone.
Chris Young, Executive Director