COVID-19 Update: Q's & A's


May 21, 2020

As we continue to adapt to the changing landscape of COVID-19, we are here to help you mitigate operational risks your organization may be facing:

Q: What needs to be cleaned and disinfected when reopening workplaces?

A: (As of 5/21/2020): Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces including your workplace, school, home, and business will require you to:

  • Develop your plan
  • Implement your plan
  • Maintain and revise your plan

Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening public spaces that will require careful planning. Every American has been called upon to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing and prevention hygiene, such as frequently washing your hands and wearing face coverings. Everyone also has a role in making sure our communities are as safe as possible to reopen and remain open.

The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed if you use the right products. EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant products that can be used against COVID-19, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes. Each product has been shown to be effective against viruses that are harder to kill than viruses with a similar cell structure to the one that causes COVID-19.

This document provides a general framework for cleaning and disinfection practices. The framework is based on doing the following:

  1. Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.
  2. Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce the risk.  Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important, as is following product instructions on how long the disinfectant should remain on the surface.
  3. When EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions). Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to breathe in. Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours. Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children. Read EPA’s infographic on how to use these disinfectant products safely and effectively.

        Find additional information at CDC’s website on Cleaning and
        Disinfecting Your Facility
and reopening guidance for cleaning and
        disinfecting in the Reopening Decision Tool. Continue to check the CDC
        website for more detailed reopening guidance as it is published.

Q: Should my workplace screen employees and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms (such as temperature checks) before they enter my worksite?

A: (As of 5/21/2020): Employers should check with individual State and Local Public Health resources to determine if there are jurisdictional requirements by location or occupation that would require screening. 

Most importantly employees and visitors should be reminded if they are ill and experiencing symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, chills, fever (oral reading of 100.4 F or greater) or they are positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 they should not enter the workplace.  Many individuals do not exhibit symptoms and those who do may not show symptoms for 2 – 14 days after exposure.  

If temperature monitoring is implemented, employers must protect the employee conducting the temperature screening. The most protective methods incorporate physical barriers to eliminate or minimize the screener’s exposures due to close contact with a person who may have symptoms during screening and personal protective equipment such as a gown, gloves, face shield, handwashing and sanitizers.  The CDC offers several considerations for personal protection of screeners under the heading “Reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.”

Choosing to implement screening measures should be discussed with legal counsel and human resources to determine how the information will be obtained, who will be reviewing the information, and how will it be used. Any medical information obtained on an employee should be maintained separate from personnel records.

Q: What is the appropriate course of action if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

A: (As of 5/21/2020): In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. But you should close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:

  • Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for anyone entering the area from being exposed to respiratory droplets.
  • During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows, if possible, to increase air circulation in these areas.

     Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations:

  • Clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.
  • To disinfect surfaces, use products that meet EPA criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface.
  • Always wear gloves and gowns appropriate for the chemicals being used when you are cleaning and disinfecting.
  • You may need to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the setting and disinfectant product you are using.

      In addition to cleaning and disinfecting, employers should determine
      which employees may have been exposed to the virus and need to take
      additional precautions:

Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider and state or local health department.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

          Employees not considered exposed should self-monitor for symptoms
          such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If they develop symptoms,
          they should notify their supervisor and stay home.

           Employers are encouraged to reach out to the State/Local Health
           departments for additional guidance and concerns and for any
           jurisdictional requirements.

Q: When should an employee in a non-healthcare occupation who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 return to work?

A: (As of 5/21/2020): Employees who display the symptoms associated with COVID-19 should continue to follow the CDC advice labeled “Steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick.”

Both employers and employees should review and follow the most current CDC guidance on when to discontinue home isolation and use that guidance, along with any state or local health department requirements, to determine that is safe for the employee to return to work.  

Q. If I cannot purchase NIOSH-Approved N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs) in the marketplace, how do I select a temporary replacement FFR for use in my workplace?

A (As of 5/21/2020): If workers are completing tasks that require them to wear N95 FFRs and the make and model they are assigned to wear cannot be sourced in the marketplace, an employer has the option to seek a similar substitute for the NIOSH-approved FFRs from imported sources or provide the workers with a higher grade of respiratory protection (i.e. half-face elastomeric filtering facepiece respirator with particulate filter cartridges, powered air purifying respirator, etc.).

Q: What is a face covering and how do I use and care for my cloth face covering?

A (as of 5/21/2020): Cloth face coverings are not designed for use as particulate respirators and do not provide as much respiratory protection as an N95 respirator.

Face coverings provide barrier protection against droplets, including large respiratory particles that are exhaled from the wearer, from becoming airborne. Cloth face coverings don’t protect the wearer from airborne particulate or aerosols containing viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, shed by other people.

The CDC recommends that everyone wear cloth face coverings when leaving their homes, regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19.  There is evidence that people can spread the disease even if they do not have any symptoms.

See this important information from CDC about cloth face coverings, including tips on caring for cloth coverings.

Q: How do I get in touch with the Risk Control and engineering organizations for a safety question or for safety resources?

A (as of 5/21/2020): Contact us so we can put you in touch with your carrier’s risk management to see what additional services may be available to you  

 Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.