COVID-19 Preparedness and Response


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Travel restrictions & procedures
Precautions for U.S. workplaces
Workplace training and control measures
Alternative work arrangements
Cleaning the workspace of an employee who has been ill


Updated Mar 16, 2020


An outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19, formerly called 2019-nCoV) that was first detected in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China, has continued to expand since the outbreak began in late 2019. Initially, many patients diagnosed as having the respiratory illness had some link to a large seafood and live-animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. In recent weeks, the illness has spread to thousands of patients in China and in a growing number of international locations, indicating sustained person-to-person spread. The virus has been reported in more than 100 countries outside of China, including the United States.

This short guide is intended for use by employers in response to the outbreak.


Travel restrictions & procedures


Widespread ongoing transmission with restrictions on entry to the United States

The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations. Most foreign nationals who have been in one of these countries during the previous 14 days will not be allowed to enter the United States.

  • China
  • Iran
  • Most European Countries
  • United Kingdom and Ireland
Widespread ongoing transmission without restrictions on entry to the United States

The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations:

  • South Korea
Ongoing community transmission

The CDC recommends that older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel to most global destinations


Precautions for U.S. workplaces

The CDC expects more confirmed US cases, likely including more person-to-person spread. Therefore, the following precautions may be taken by the public to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.


Workplace training and control measures

The CDC recommends that employers provide worker training on infection controls, such as the importance of avoiding close contact (within 6 feet) with others.

  • Employers should provide adequate supplies and ready access to soap and running water, tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and cleaning agents.
  • Routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces should be performed, including workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Employers should provide disposable wipes so these surfaces can be cleaned before each use.
  • Employers should provide PPE to workplaces that require it. The correct equipment, such as gloves and respirators, can be selected based upon OSHA guidelines.
  • Frequent visual and verbal reminders to workers can improve compliance with hand hygiene practices.

Employers may also consider modifying the work environment, changing work practices, or both to provide additional protection. Examples follow:

  • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards.
  • Conducting business differently, such as drive-through service windows and telework arrangements.
  • Improving ventilation with high-efficiency air filters and increasing ventilation rates.
  • Installing additional hand sanitizer dispensers.

Alternative work arrangements

Employers should, when possible, set up remote working arrangements to accommodate those who have been instructed to isolate at home or to practice social distancing.

Employers should ensure that the appropriate information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees working from home is in place. These arrangements should allow for remote access to shared drives, voicemail, conferencing lines, and other necessities.

Employers may consider providing sick leave so that workers may stay home if they are sick. Flexible leave policies help stop the spread of disease, including to healthy workers.

In the case that remote work is not possible, additional options for employers to consider are below:

  • Treat time away as paid hospitalization leave or paid outpatient sick leave.
  • Allow employees to apply for annual leave.
  • Allow employees to use advanced paid leave or apply for no pay leave, for employees who have used up their leave entitlements.
  • Other mutually agreed-upon arrangements between the employers and employees or

Cleaning the workspace of an employee who has been ill

According to the WHO, it is not yet known how long COVID-19 can remain infectious on surfaces. Past studies that have analyzed the survival of SARS and MERS viruses on surfaces determined that infectivity is greatly reduced or eliminated in a matter of hours, supporting the WHO suggestion that COVID-19 might survive on surfaces for only a few hours.

Simple disinfectants are capable of killing COVID-19, making it no longer infectious. Encouraging or implementing routine and thorough workspace cleaning protocols reduces the risk of infection.