Keeping employees safe during COVID-19 pandemic

Coworkers wearing masks and bumping elbows in the office

Dean Health Plan wants to make sure you can reopen your doors with the best plan to keep your employees and others safe. While public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 are in place, some person-to-person transmission will likely occur. It is important for employers to plan for reopening and operating to minimize the impact of the virus on your business. Dean Health Plan is here to help you prepare with basic infection prevention measures, state and national resources, and suggested policies and procedures.  

The first step to protecting your employees is to have a good understanding of how the virus spreads. 

How the virus spreads

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). 
  • The virus mainly spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • It may be possible for a person to get infected by touching a surface or object that has COVID-19 virus particles on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads.
  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are symptomatic, especially when symptoms first start (i.e., new onset; chills or fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle pain or loss of taste or smell). COVID-19 may also be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. 

Implement basic infection prevention measures

There are basic steps centered around good hygiene and infection control practices that every employer can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure to COVID-19.

Develop policies and procedures for sick, at-risk employees

• Encourage employees to self-monitor for COVID-19 signs and symptoms: fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell or even nasal congestion or a ‘runny nose’, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. 
• Encourage workers to stay home if they have any of these symptoms – even if symptoms are mild.
• Consider waiving requirements for a health care provider’s note for employees who report any symptoms.
• Allow employees who have been exposed to anyone who has COVID-19 to be absent from work so they can self-isolate at home according to current CDC guidance.
• Make sure employees are aware of Dean Health Plan coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment.

Develop policies and procedures for sick, at-risk employees

State and national resources

The Wisconsin Department of Health

Information about COVID-19 for businesses and employers including details of the ‘Badger Bounce Back,’ which emphasizes a gradual, phased process as the safest way to reopen Wisconsin.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA offers guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 to help assess occupational risk and contains risk-based recommendations for workplace controls (including engineering controls like installing plexiglass barriers, etc.), as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The CDC has provided guidance for employers and workers for recommended COVID-19 infection prevention strategies.

In most cases, a combination of control measures will be necessary to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19. Please consult the OSHA and CDC guidance to tailor control measures to the needs of your unique workplace.

Dean Health Plan is your health care partner

Evaluation for possible COVID-19 illness is available virtually and via dedicated clinic sites and urgent care locations.

For Wisconsin residents, calling our 24-hour Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-57-NURSE  (1-800-576-8773), can help you find the most appropriate and convenient site of care. If testing for COVID-19 is recommended via an e-visit, instructions for accessing testing at the nearest testing location will be provided. 
Instructions for home isolation for those awaiting COVID-19 test results and guidance for self-care and infection control for those who test positive for COVID-19 will be provided by the provider staff. These instructions will be consistent with the latest CDC recommendations for when it is safe to end home isolation.
CDC guidance on who to test for COVID-19, is adapted by state and local health departments in response to rapidly changing local circumstances. SSM Health and our other contracted provider groups are following CDC and Wisconsin Department of Health guidelines on who should be prioritized for testing. 
Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is available. It's currently being offered by clinicians and at community testing sites to those with potential COVID-19 symptoms and those without symptoms who are otherwise prioritized by health departments or clinicians for public health monitoring.   
Antibody tests for COVID-19 check the blood by looking for antibodies, which are typically present following a previous infection.

Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection. At this time, it’s unclear if those antibodies can provide protection (immunity) against getting infected again. This means that it is not yet known if having antibodies makes you immune to the virus.

At the present time there is no CDC guidance for the use of COVID-19 antibody testing in particular individuals. Due to this uncertainty, high level consensus about the role of antibody testing in back to work policy has not yet been reached. 

Questions?

For further questions related to the health and safety of workers and workplaces during the COVID-19 outbreak, contact your Dean Health Plan representative.