Dr. David Batman and Dr. Gary Smithson answer the most pressing questions on the intersection of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and employee wellbeing. Learn facts about the virus and disease and steps you can take to lower your risk of exposure and better your overall health.
Coronaviruses are not new to us – but this is a new variant (novel coronavirus) called COVID-19. Most people infected will have symptoms similar to that of a cold. It is estimated that the majority of the affected population will experience mild symptoms.
Common symptoms include fever, cold, shortness of breath – very similar to flu and common colds.
COVID-19 is primarily spread person-to-person when a sick person coughs or sneezes and droplets land on another person or surface; it can also spread if someone then touches a surface where the virus lives (though this is not believed to be the main way the virus spreads.) The average incubation time is about 5 days, but can be anywhere from 2-14 days. COVID-19 is highly contagious; some data shows it's 2x more contagious than the flu and 10x more fatal. It is likely this virus is contagious a couple of days after exposure and 7-10 days after symptoms show.
Everyone is at risk for infection by this novel coronavirus because there is no immunity yet.
Individuals with pre-existing conditions are more vulnerable to coronavirus: Populations at risk include individuals with pre-existing chronic conditions such as diabetes, respiratory conditions, heart disease, lung disease, people who smoke, have asthma, or a compromised immune system. Although this is sometimes associated with people who are 65 or older, younger people with chronic conditions are still considered high risk. If someone in the at-risk category requires assistance, be sure to protect them by helping from a distance.
Typically, lower risk populations are younger, fitter and healthier individuals. These individuals will likely experience mild symptoms and the same is true for children as the pneumonia receptor has not quite developed yet.
As of now, there are no known risks of transmission from mothers to babies in utero or via breastmilk.
Reduce your own risk by:
Reduce risk to others by:
In light of new evidence, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
Social distancing vs. self-isolation is a very different action. Social distancing is keeping a distance of 6 ft. from others, while self-isolation is if you or someone you have been in contact with has the virus, and you abstain from all social interactions, limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether a medical evaluation is needed. You should then self-isolate for 14 days.
You should be tested if you have been in contact with someone who has the virus, are showing symptoms, or have traveled to a country with a widespread outbreak of the virus.
Just because you tested negative, don’t let your guard down; Continue to practice safe behaviors. Test results can show negative for a number of reasons:
All of these possibilities could produce false-negative test results.
Handling increased fear and anxiety is key to keeping your immune system strong. It is paramount that you take care of your body, sleep as much as possible, exercise, meditate, avoid alcohol and eat healthy.
Stay connected and positive.
The importance of keeping your spirits up during times of uncertainty and crisis cannot be underestimated. Get creative and socialize in safe ways using social media, video chat or online games with your friend and family. Think of ways you can help others without increasing risk of exposure, especially those who may not have access to supplies they need or might still be working on the front lines. You can drop groceries on the doorstep for an elderly neighbor or check with local hospitals to see if they have a meal donation program for healthcare workers working longer-than-usual shifts.
Employees should work from home when possible and should avoid in-person meetings or team gatherings.
As an employee, please follow HR guidance from your company regarding fears related to coming into work; If you are unable to work from home, follow all mandatory and suggested protocols to be safe – frequent hand-washing, social distancing, etc. If you are taking public transportation, do not touch railings and keep your belongings off the floor, and avoid eating or drinking during your commute. Be diligent to sanitize everything when you arrive back home.
Keep up with a routine; have a beginning and end to the day; take a break/move around; take a healthy lunch break; keep to structure; communicate with your team(s) frequently;
This situation is evolving daily, so the response to these concerns may have been different days ago. Businesses and respective HR departments are assessing conditions daily and evaluating policies their procedures as they relate to COVID-19.
Care, sensitivity, and understanding are key to navigating times of crisis with your employees.
Some businesses and employees will be considered essential and will be asked to work onsite. Communicate with employees frequently, making sure they understand the most current guidance and provide the resources that will help them feel and perform their best.
Read more: Supporting Frontline Workers
Rapidly evolving information and guidance are coming out 24/7 on our news channels and social media.
Rely more on science-based facts and think positively about the outcomes, if possible, focusing on the fact that most people will survive this. It doesn’t mean people are not dying, because they are – it is horrible and inevitable, and so, therefore, it should not be taken lightly.
Social distancing and self-isolating are important. But, as we maintain that distance – smile and give folks a friendly greeting. We must stay connected to support each other and build resilience. We are all in this together.
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.”
- John Lennon