|For Immediate Distribution | May 5, 2020 | (512) 463-1826|
|Governor Abbott Expands Business Openings In Texas, Announces Surge Response Teams To Combat COVID-19Issues Guidance For Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremonies AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today held a press conference where announced that he will be issuing an Executive Order to expand openings of certain businesses and activities. The Governor also announced new guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on graduation ceremonies and the creation of Surge Response Teams to combat any COVID-19 flare ups in Texas. “Texas is in a position to continue opening parts of our economy because of the efforts and determination of the people of Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “Over the past month, Texans have worked together to contain the spread of COVID-19 by following social distancing practices and staying at home whenever possible. As we move forward, I urge all Texans to continue following these social distancing guidelines and the health standards we have provided. With every Texan doing their part, we will contain COVID-19, we will unleash our entrepreneurs, and we will make it through this challenge together.” The Governor was joined for the press conference by Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) Chief Nim Kidd, Texas Health and Human Services (HHSC) Acting Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, and Adjutant General of Texas Maj. Gen. Tracey Norris. Per the Governor’s announcement, wedding venues and services required to conduct weddings may immediately open. Weddings held indoors other than at a church, congregation, or house of worship must limit occupancy to 25%. Wedding reception services may also resume, but facilities must limit their occupancy to 25% of the total listed occupancy. These occupancy limits do not apply to the outdoor areas of a wedding reception or to outdoor wedding receptions. Beginning May 8, cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons and shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade, may open, but all such salons, shops, and establishments must ensure at least six feet of social distancing between operating work stations. Tanning salons may also reopen under the same limitation. Also starting May 8, swimming pools may open subject to certain limitations, including on their occupancy or operating levels. Beginning May 18, office buildings may open with the greater of five or less individuals or 25% of the total office workforce. These individuals must maintain appropriate social distancing. Gyms, exercise facilities, and exercise classes may also open on May 18, but must operate at 25% occupancy. Locker rooms and shower facilities will remain closed, but restrooms may open. Non-essential manufacturing services may also open on May 18 but facilities must limit their occupancy to 25%. These newly opened services are subject to recommended minimum standard health protocols outlined by DSHS. These protocols will be available on the Open Texas webpage. During the press conference, Chief Kidd and Commissioner Wilson provided details on the newly formed Surge Response Teams. These teams are led by TDEM and HHSC and include representatives from the the Texas Military Department, DSHS, the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force, and BCFS Health and Human Services. Surge Response Teams will serve nursing homes, prisons, packing pants, and other facilities that experience flare ups of COVID-19 by providing personal protective equipment, testing supplies, onsite staffing, and assessment assistance. These teams will also work with local officials to establish health and social distancing standards to contain these flare ups. Several Surge Response Teams have already been deployed to locations across the state. Chief Kidd and Commissioner Wilson’s presentation is available here. TEA Commissioner Morath also provided new guidance on class of 2020 graduation ceremonies for Texas school districts. The TEA is providing four different pathways for schools to celebrate their graduating seniors, and each district is at liberty to determine if any of these options best serve the needs and desires of their community:Completely virtual ceremonies that take place entirely online, with the use of videoconference or other technologies.Hybrid ceremonies, which consist of a compilation of videos of students being recognized in person as they celebrate graduation in small groups.Vehicle ceremonies, in which students and their families wait in their cars while other graduates are recognized one at time with their families alongside them.Outdoor in-person ceremonies, which are currently permitted for counties as follows: Between May 15 and May 31, an outdoor ceremony may take place in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the Governor’s Report to Open Texas that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony. An outdoor ceremony may take place in any Texas county on or after June 1. Full details of the TEA’s graduation ceremony guidance can be found on the TEA website.|
OEI Small Business COVID-19 Initiative Desk Aid
Information regarding COVID-19 is constantly changing so make sure to get the most up-to-date information at the following helpful TWC links:
1Q: As a small business employer, is there a way to avoid mass layoffs?
1A: Yes; the Shared Work Program provides Texas employers with an alternative to layoffs. TWC developed this voluntary program to help Texas employers and employees withstand a slowdown in business. Shared Work allows employers to:
- Supplement their employees’ wages lost because of reduced work hours with partial unemployment benefits
- Reduce normal weekly work hours for employees in an affected unit by at least 10 percent but not more than 40 percent; the reduction must affect at least 10 percent of the employees in that unit
- Employees who qualify will receive both wages and Shared Work unemployment benefits.
For more information, please refer to the link below:
2Q: Is there an option to allow for multiple Unemployment Benefits claims to be submitted?
2A: Yes; the Mass Claims Service streamlines the unemployment benefit claims process for employers faced with either
temporary or permanent layoffs. During COVID – 19 the requirement to submit Mass Claims Request at least five
days prior to the planned layoff has been waived.
For more information, please visit:
3Q: Are there any waivers regarding Unemployment Insurance?
3A: Yes; Governor Abbott granted the Texas Workforce Commission’s request to suspend the one-week waiting period, allowing workers in Texas to receive benefits immediately after their unemployment benefit applications are approved. In addition, work search requirements have been waived for employees.
Employers can receive more information online at http://ui.texasworkforce.org, or by calling the Tele-Center at 800-939-6631.
4Q: Can you explain the other provisions included in the CARES ACT?
4A: The CARES Act also includes the following:
Unemployment Insurant Provisions:
- this temporary program provides payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency through December 31, 2020.
Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations
- provides payment to states to reimburse nonprofits, government agencies, and Indian tribes for half of the costs they incur through December 31, 2020 to pay unemployment benefits.
Increase in Unemployment Compensation Benefits –
- provides an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months.
Emergency Unemployment Compensation –
- provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 to help those who remain unemployed after weeks of state unemployment benefits are no longer available.
5Q: When will the $600 per week be available for Texans on unemployment?
5A: TWC’s goal is to begin issuing payments the week of April 13th throughout April and continuing. An individual may be eligible for $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits available for W2 covered employees; self-employed workers and independent contractors. The application process is the same.
6Q: Have provisions been included that affect taxes?
6A: Yes, both at the State and Federal levels. The CARES Act includes the delay of payment of employer payroll taxes. The provision allows employers and self-employed individuals to defer payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax they otherwise are responsible for paying to the federal government with respect to their employees.
At the State level, the following are in affect:
- The date to file and pay the 2020 Texas franchise tax reports has been extended to July 15, 2020 to be consistent with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
- Short term payment agreements and possible waivers of penalties and interest for businesses struggling to pay state sales taxes.
- Temporary suspension of the 60-day deadline for businesses contesting audit results
For more information, please refer to the following link: https://comptroller.texas.gov/about/emergency/
7Q: Can you expand on the payroll tax credits?
7A: Included in the Small Business Tax Provisions is a refundable payroll tax credit for 50 percent of wages paid by eligible employers to certain employees during the COVID-19 crisis. This is available to employers, including non-profits, whose operation have been fully or partially suspended as a result of a government order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings. This provision is also provided to employers who have experienced a greater than 50 percent reduction in quarterly receipts, measured on a year-over-year basis. Wages of employees who are furloughed or face reduced hours as a result of their employer’s closure or economic hardship are eligible for the credit.
- SBA FUNDING PROGRAMS:
8Q: Are there resources available to assist in covering the cost of retaining employees?
8A: Yes; the passage of the CARES ACT enabled the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This program offers loans of up to $10 million for payroll, mortgage, rent, utilities, etc. The federal government will forgive payments if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.
- PPP Loan Period – February 15, 2020 to June 30,2020
- Business in operation as of February 15, 2020
- Business must have been harmed by COVID-19 between February 15th through June 30, 2020
- Cash Flow Protection during emergency through 100 Percent federally guarantee loans to employers
- If payroll maintained during emergency loans will be forgiven
Please use the following link to find an approved vendor:
9Q: Are there loans or grants available to assist my small business?
9A: SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. After submission of the SBA application, $10,000 emergency advance can be requested.
For more information: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance
10Q: Do I qualify for the Small Business Debt Relief Program?
10A: This program will provide immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans, in particular 7(a), 504, and microloans. Under it, SBA will cover all loan payments on these SBA loans, including principal, interest, and fees, for six months.
For more information: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/sba-debt-relief
11Q: How can I find my local SBA office?
11A: Please visit the following link to find your local SBA office: https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance/find/?type=SBA%20District%20Office&pageNumber=1
- TRAINING AND COUNSELING:
12Q: Are there local resources with TWC who can assist me?
12A: Yes; Texas contains 28 Workforce Development Boards (WDB’s). Workforce Solutions Offices services include employer services, job seeker services, and childcare assistance. To find the nearest Workforce Solutions Office, please refer to the link below:
13Q: Where can I receive small business training and counseling?
13A: There are a variety of local organizations that can assist in training and counseling:
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
- Women’s Business Centers (WBC)
- Minority Business Development Agency’s Business Centers (MBDCs)
With the passage of the CARES Act, these resource partners will have additional funding and better support for small businesses regarding COVID-19. Counseling is free and most training is low-cost (SCORE is always free).
14Q: Does Texas have a program that covers the cost of training or upskilling?
14A: Yes; the Texas Workforce Commission offers the Skills for Small Business Grant Program. This allows small businesses to train their workforce without the financial burden.
- Targets private for-profit businesses that employs at least 1 & not more than 99
- The program pays tuition & fees up to $1,800 for new employees; up to $900 for existing employees, per 12-month period
- Eligible employees must be full-time, W-2
- Training providers include public community or technical colleges, or TEEX
For more information, please email Skillsforsmallbusiness@TWC.state.tx.us
- HELPFUL LINKS:
Please visit the TWC COVID-19 Small Business Initiatives website: https://twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-small-businesses
For all Small Business COVID-19 related questions, please email SmallBizC19@twc.state.tx.us
Workforce Commission Employers Page: https://twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-employers
Texas SBDC: https://sbdctexas.org/
US Chamber of Commerce: https://www.uschamber.com/report/covid-19-emergency-loans-small-business-guide
US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship: https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/2/9/29fc1ae7-879a-4de0-97d5-ab0a0cb558c8/1BC9E5AB74965E686FC6EBC019EC358F.the-small-business-owner-s-guide-to-the-cares-act-final-.pdf
Commissioner Aaron Demerson’ s Employer Hotline: 1-800-832-9394
|For Immediate Distribution | April 16, 2020 | (512) 463-1826|
|Governor Abbott Launches Small Business Webinar Series AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism (EDT) yesterday launched the Governor’s Small Business Webinar Series to provide Texas small business owners and entrepreneurs with timely, relevant, and actionable information on COVID-19 recovery resources. The first webinar, specifically tailored to Central Texas, was attended by over 3,000 Texans. The Webinar Series takes the place of the Governor’s Small Business Series events that were postponed due to COVID-19. The Governor’s Small Business Webinar Series for Central Texas was held in partnership with the Greater San Marcos Partnership, Greater Waco Chamber and Kerr Economic Development Corporation. Additional regional webinars will be held throughout the months of April and May and announced on the EDT website in the coming days. The Governor’s Small Business Webinar Series covers a variety of resources available including information on programs offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration that may be of assistance to Texas businesses impacted by COVID-19. Businesses can also connect with local experts and support systems. Featured speakers include area Small Business Development Centers and other resource providers based on the needs of the communities covered in each webinar. The Governor’s Small Business Webinar Series is held in collaboration with local economic development organizations and supported through a partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission. Yesterday’s webinar is available for playback here.|
Businesses may begin to file Friday, April 3, 2020 for Paycheck Protection Program loans/grants.
4/2/2020- New Stay Home to Save Lives Order, extended through 11.59 p.m., April 30, 2020, unless the local disaster for public health emergency is no longer in effect.
How can Fort Bend residents help each other?
- Order takeout and/or delivery from your favorite restaurants
- Stay informed and practice all safety precautions
- Order online at your local retailers
- Purchase gift cards at stores and restaurants online
- Practice social distancing and support your neighbors with a phone call, video chat, or across the street conversation
Resources for Businesses and Employers
Plan, prepare, and respond to coronavirus disease 2019
Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19):
This interim guidance is based on what is currently known about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The outbreak first started in China, but the virus continues to spread internationally and in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update this interim guidance as additional information becomes available.
The following interim guidance may help prevent workplace exposures to COVID-19, in non-healthcare settings. (CDC has provided separate guidance for healthcare settings.) This guidance also provides planning considerations for community spread of COVID-19.
To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, use only the guidance described below to determine risk of COVID-19 infection. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed coronavirus infection. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features of COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.
Preparing Workplaces for a COVID-19 Outbreak
Businesses and employers can prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. Employers should plan to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of disease transmission in the community and be prepared to refine their business response plans as needed. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), most American workers will likely experience low (caution) or medium exposure risk levels at their job or place of employment (see OSHA guidance for employerspdf iconexternal icon for more information about job risk classifications).
Businesses are strongly encouraged to coordinate with stateexternal icon and localexternal icon health officials so timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses. Local conditions will influence the decisions that public health officials make regarding community-level strategies. CDC has guidance for mitigation strategiespdf icon according to the level of community transmission or impact of COVID-19.
All employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and lower the impact in their workplace. This may include activities in one or more of the following areas:
- reduce transmission among employees,
- maintain healthy business operations, and
- maintain a healthy work environment.
Reduce Transmission Among Employees
Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:
- Employees who have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should notify their supervisor and stay home.
- Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions.
Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work:
- See OSHA COVID-19external icon webpage for more information on how to protect workers from potential exposures and guidance for employerspdf iconexternal icon, including steps to take for jobs according to exposure risk.
- Be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. Consider minimizing face-to-face contact between these employees or assign work tasks that allow them to maintain a distance of six feet from other workers, customers and visitors, or to telework if possible.
Separate sick employees:
- Employees who appear to have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, 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). The employer should instruct fellow employees about how to proceed based on the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure.
Educate employees about how they can reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- Employees can take steps to protect themselves at work and at home. Older people and people with serious chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for complications.
- Follow the policies and procedures of your employer related to illness, cleaning and disinfecting, and work meetings and travel.
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn what to do if you are sick.
- Inform your supervisor if you have a sick family member at home with COVID-19. Learn what to do if someone in your house is sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash and immediately wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Learn more about coughing and sneezing etiquette on the CDC website.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs. Dirty surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection. To disinfect, use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2external icon, the cause of COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface.
- Avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
- Practice social distancing by avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.
Maintain Healthy Business Operations
Identify a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues and their impact at the workplace.
Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices.
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies.
- Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member or take care of children due to school and childcare closures. Additional flexibilities might include giving advances on future sick leave and allowing employees to donate sick leave to each other.
- Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees may want to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.
- Employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.
- Review human resources policies to make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws (for more information on employer responsibilities, visit the Department of Labor’sexternal icon and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’sexternal icon websites).
- Connect employees to employee assistance program (EAP) resources (if available) and community resources as needed. Employees may need additional social, behavioral, and other services, for example, to cope with the death of a loved one.
Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products.
- Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize existing customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).
- Identify alternate supply chains for critical goods and services. Some good and services may be in higher demand or unavailable.
- Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
- Talk with business partners about your response plans. Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts.
Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children if dismissed from childcare programs and K-12 schools.
- Plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism at the workplace.
- Implement plans to continue your essential business functions in case you experience higher than usual absenteeism.
- Prepare to institute flexible workplace and leave policies.
- Cross-train employees to perform essential functions so the workplace can operate even if key employees are absent.
Consider establishing policies and practices for social distancing. Social distancing should be implemented if recommended by state and local health authorities. Social distancing means avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible (e.g., breakrooms and cafeterias). Strategies that business could use include:
- Implementing flexible worksites (e.g., telework)
- Implementing flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts)
- Increasing physical space between employees at the worksite
- Increasing physical space between employees and customers (e.g., drive through, partitions)
- Implementing flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., postpone non-essential meetings or events)
- Downsizing operations
- Delivering services remotely (e.g. phone, video, or web)
- Delivering products through curbside pick-up or delivery
Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their COVID-19 response plan based on local conditions.
Maintain a healthy work environment
Consider improving the engineering controls using the building ventilation system. This may include some or all of the following activities:
- Increase ventilation rates.
- Increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system.
Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene for employees, customers, and worksite visitors:
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
- Provide soap and water in the workplace. If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. If hands are visibly dirty, soap and water should be chosen over hand sanitizer. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained.
- Place hand sanitizers in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene.
- Place posters that encourage hand hygiene to help stop the spread at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Discourage handshaking – encourage the use of other noncontact methods of greeting.
- Direct employees to visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.
Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection:
- Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs.
- If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- For disinfection, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available herepdf iconexternal icon. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).
- Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks, other work tools and equipment) can be wiped down by employees before each use. To disinfect, use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2external icon, the cause of COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface.
Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility:
- If a sick employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
Advise employees before traveling to take additional preparations:
- Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from countries with travel advisories, and information for aircrew, can be found on the CDC website.
- Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
- Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
- If outside the United States, sick employees should follow company policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.
Take care when attending meetings and gatherings:
- Carefully consider whether travel is necessary.
- Consider using videoconferencing or teleconferencing when possible for work-related meetings and gatherings.
- Consider canceling, adjusting, or postponing large work-related meetings or gatherings that can only occur in-person.
- When videoconferencing or teleconferencing is not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces.
Prepare your Small Business and Employees for the Effects of COVID-19
During an infectious disease outbreak, such as the current outbreak of COVID-19, small business owners must prepare for disruption in their business as well as prepare to protect their employees’ health and safety in the workplace.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. It spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms can include fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, which may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
These steps are recommended to protect employees and prepare your business for disruption:
Identify a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues and their impact at the workplace.
Examine policies for leave, telework, and employee compensation.
- Leave policies should be flexible and non-punitive, and allow sick employees to stay home and away from co-workers. Leave policies should also account for employees who need to stay home with their children if there are school or childcare closures, or to care for sick family members.
- When possible, use flexible worksites (e.g., telework) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for social distancing (maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) between employees and others, especially if social distancing is recommended by state and local health authorities.
Review your leave policies with all employees and provide information about available employee assistance services. Share information on steps they can take to protect themselves at work and at home, and any available
Identify essential employees and business functions, and other critical inputs such as raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics required to maintain business operations. Explore ways you can continue business operations if there are disruptions.
Prepare business continuity plans for significant absenteeism, supply chain disruptions, or changes in the way you need to conduct business.
Establish an emergency communications plan. Identify key contacts (with back-ups), chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating about business and employee status.
Share your response plans with employees and clearly communicate expectations. It is important to let employees know plans and expectations if COVID-19 occurs in communities where you have a workplace.
Top 10 Tips to Protect Employees’ Health
Healthy employees are crucial to your business. Here are 10 ways to help them stay healthy.
Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisals, and ensure employees are aware of these policies.
Have conversations with employees about their concerns. Some employees may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
Develop other flexible policies for scheduling and telework (if feasible) and create leave policies to allow employees to stay home to care for sick family members or care for children if schools and childcare close.
Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about their plans. Discuss the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.
Plan to implement practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees if social distancing is recommended by your state or local health department. Actively encourage flexible work arrangements such as teleworking or staggered shifts.
Perform routine environmental cleaning. Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, handrails, and doorknobs. Discourage sharing of tools and equipment, if feasible.
Consider the need for travel and explore alternatives. Check CDC’s Travelers’ Health for the latest guidance and recommendations. Consider using teleconferencing and video conferencing for meetings, when possible.
Provide education and training materials in an easy to understand format and in the appropriate language and literacy level for all employees, like fact sheets and posters.
If an employee becomes sick while at work, they should be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home immediately. Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting areas the sick employee visited.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility
Everyday Steps, Steps When Someone is Sick, and Considerations for Employers
How to clean and disinfect
alert icon Wear disposable gloves to clean and disinfect.
- Clean surfaces using soap and water. Practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
High touch surfaces include:
Tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc.
- Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use disinfectant.
- Recommend use of EPA-registered household disinfectantexternal icon.
Follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product.
Many products recommend:
- Keeping surface wet for a period of time (see product label)
- Precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
- Diluted household bleach solutions may also be used if appropriate for the surface.
- Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection, and ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Some bleaches, such as those designed for safe use on colored clothing or for whitening may not be suitable for disinfection.
- Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
Leave solution on the surface for at least 1 minute.
To make a bleach solution, mix:
- 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
- Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol may also be used.
For soft surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes
- Clean the surface using soap and water or with cleaners appropriate for use on these surfaces.
- Launder items (if possible) according to the manufacturer’s instructions.Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.OR
- Disinfect with an EPA-registered household disinfectant. These disinfectantsexternal icon meet EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19.
For electronics, such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines
- Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics.
- Follow manufacturer’s instruction for cleaning and dinfecting.
- If no guidance, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol. Dry surface thoroughly.
For clothing, towels, linens and other items
- Launder items according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
- Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from a person who is sick.
- Dirty laundry from a person who is sick can be washed with other people’s items.
- Do not shake dirty laundry.
- Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to guidance above for surfaces.
- Remove gloves, and wash hands right away.
Cleaning and disinfecting your building or facility if someone is sick
- Close off areas used by the person who is sick.
- Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. Wait 24 hours before you clean or disinfect. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
- Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines.
- If more than 7 days since the person who is sick visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.
- Continue routing cleaning and disinfection.
- Wear disposable gloves and gowns for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash.
- Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) might be required based on the cleaning/disinfectant products being used and whether there is a risk of splash.
- Gloves and gowns should be removed carefully to avoid contamination of the wearer and the surrounding area.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Always wash immediately after removing gloves and after contact with a person who is sick.
- Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
- Additional key times to wash hands include:
- After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- After using the restroom.
- Before eating or preparing food.
- After contact with animals or pets.
- Before and after providing routine care for another person who needs assistance (e.g., a child).
Additional Considerations for Employers
- Educate workers performing cleaning, laundry, and trash pick-up to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19.
- Provide instructions on what to do if they develop symptoms within 14 days after their last possible exposure to the virus.
- Develop policies for worker protection and provide training to all cleaning staff on site prior to providing cleaning tasks.
- Training should include when to use PPE, what PPE is necessary, how to properly don (put on), use, and doff (take off) PPE, and how to properly dispose of PPE.
- Ensure workers are trained on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace in accordance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200external icon).
- Comply with OSHA’s standards on Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030external icon), including proper disposal of regulated waste, and PPE (29 CFR 1910.132external icon).
For facilities that house people overnight:
- Follow CDC’s guidance for colleges and universities. Work with state and local health officials to determine the best way to isolate people who are sick and if temporary housing is needed.
- For guidance on cleaning and disinfecting the bedroom/bathroom for someone who is sick, review CDC’s guidance on disinfecting your home if someone is sick.
Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19
To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.
A potential exposure means being a household contact or having close contact within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The timeframe for having contact with an individual includes the period of time of 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic.
Critical Infrastructure workers who have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic should adhere to the following practices prior to and during their work shift:
- Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
- Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
- Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
- Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
- Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.
If the employee becomes sick during the day, they should be sent home immediately. Surfaces in their workspace should be cleaned and disinfected. Information on persons who had contact with the ill employee during the time the employee had symptoms and 2 days prior to symptoms should be compiled. Others at the facility with close contact within 6 feet of the employee during this time would be considered exposed.
Employers should implement the recommendations in the Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19in the workplace. Additional information about identifying critical infrastructure during COVID-19 can be found on the DHS CISA websiteexternal icon or the CDC’s specific First Responder Guidance page.
If you are an essential critical worker who has been exposed to Covid-19
- Stay at work if you become sick.
- Share headsets or objects used near face.
- Congregate in the break room or other crowded places.
If you are an employer of workers exposed to Covid-19
- Take employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to their starting work.
- If an employee becomes sick during the day, send them home immediately.
- Test the use of face masks to ensure they do not interfere with workflow.
- Increase air exchange in the building.
- Increase the frequency of cleaning commonly touched surfaces.