COVID-19 Risk Update

  • 7/30/2020 4:00 pm

COVID-19 Risk Update 

The COVID-19 pandemic is widespread and exposures can happen virtually anywhere. A positive COVID exposure may come from the essential tasks of work or it may come from another source. What is clear is there must be a plan in place for protecting employees from the virus, and the plan must address dealing with employees who have been exposed. 

Government employees are generally considered essential and many of them interact with the public. Every one-on-one contact creates the potential for transmission of the virus, and this exposure is multiplied when our employees are working in large groups. A number of our cities are experiencing social protests that draw crowds of people, and our police officers are present to maintain the peace. Unfortunately, each protest increases the likelihood of virus transmission. 

Georgia Tech recently developed a calculator that allows people to determine the likelihood of exposure based on an event’s location and size. For example, according to the calculator, someone attending a 100-person gathering in Bradley County has a 99% chance of being exposed to the virus. The same-sized event in Hawkins County carries a 52% chance of exposure. A police officer working either of these events without proper protection has a very strong potential to contract the virus. 

To address this, Public Entity Partners strongly encourages our members to follow CDC protocols for protecting employees, and to ensure these protocols are written policies and are followed by all employees. This helps to ensure everyone’s safety, both at work and when they return home to their families. 

These protocols include:

  • Employees should receive temperature checks before starting their workday or shift
  • Employees should wear a mask at all times when social distancing is not possible
  • Employees should wear a mask in every interaction with the public
  • Employers should outline healthy hygiene practices for employees to implement and ensure that shared equipment is regularly disinfected 

It is strongly recommended that a "Record of exposure” form is maintained. Employees who believe they have been exposed should be asked to document the exposure and list others who also may have been exposed. This record should be treated as a confidential medical record and safeguarded in the same manner. 

The best practice for an exposed individual is to shelter at home for 14 days to determine if he or she has contracted the virus. Because that may not be possible for all essential employees, the CDC has outlined protocols for allowing an asymptomatic exposed employee to continue working; however, the employee must be sent home if any symptoms develop. The CDC recommends that any exposed employee who stays on the job is required to wear a mask at all times, socially distance from others, and have temperature checks prior to beginning the workday and again at mid-day. This will lessen the potential of exposing others. In addition, it could reduce lost time for critical workers who are needed to maintain our normal governmental functions. 

Requiring our employees to wear protective gear is not just a “best practice,” it is our legal responsibility. OSHA’s general duty clause is the legal standard for evaluating and addressing the potential hazards in a job. It requires the employer to evaluate each job, identify potential hazards and eliminate them if possible. If it is not possible to eliminate all potential hazards, the employer is to mitigate the exposure through the use of personal protective devices. 

The potential for employees to contract COVID-19, whether on the job or off, is clearly known. One of the best protections from transmission while on the job and working with the public is by wearing a mask. Public Entity Partners recommends that masks be issued and worn during every public encounter, along with following other standard safety protocols.