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COVID-19 Community Safety Resources and Solutions

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized COVID-19 as a global pandemic and a new disease for which most people do not have immunity. This prompted governments to issue stay-home orders with subsequent impact on education, tourism, trade, food supply, financial markets and more.

By mid-May, the virus claimed more than 300,000 lives around the world. Many U.S. states are beginning to lift or partially lift stay-home orders and allowing businesses to reopen. This is a critical time to consider if your organization is ready to manage virus-related safety issues including:

  • New cleaning/disinfecting recommendations for your facility
  • Social-distancing guidelines and scheduling implications
  • Employee testing and reporting
  • Updates to your emergency operations and communications plans
  • Staff health and engagement

Without a vaccine, recurring outbreaks are expected for the next several months. The spread and impact of COVID-19 proves there is no such thing as “business as usual” anymore.

The vital information and resources below are intended to help you and your organization confidently navigate this systemic crisis.

Table of Contents

The Systemic Nature of COVID-19 and How It Impacts Communities

Leading Your Community Through COVID-19

Safety Enhancing Solutions During and Beyond this Pandemic

The Systemic Nature of COVID-19 and How It Impacts Communities

Topic 1

COVID-19 is a systemic issue throughout society due to its capacity to disrupt every aspect of life (including education and business) as we know it. COVID-19, and any other potential pandemic, requires comprehensive planning and systems of thinking to ensure the physical safety and mental wellbeing of your team and organization.

In addition to adjustments to your daily operations, your organization will also need to plan and prepare for the potential impacts of isolation, job loss and other changes that may affect the mental and physical health of your team. This combination of COVID-19 implications reinforces a simple truth – being ready means understanding COVID-19’s potential impact.

Community Operations

Whether you employ essential workers who’ve been working back-to-back shifts, moved to fully remote operation or have furloughed employees, your organization has been faced with finding ways to adapt to unprecedented circumstances.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finds that informed workers who feel safe at work are less likely to be unnecessarily absent. Now is the time to begin, or continue, adjusting your operations to accommodate your community’s safety, ensuring your people can remain productive and continue to thrive. 

To mitigate COVID-19 impact in your community consider the following:

  • Decreasing open business hours to disinfect your facility more frequently, sharing this plan with your employees
  • Taking and documenting on-site employee temperatures daily
  • Splitting shifts and/or limiting class sizes to ensure social distancing
  • Allowing flexible hours for employees who are also caring for young children or elderly parents while working from home
  • Rearranging classroom furniture or office layout
  • Adjusting payment practices to avoid touching hands to exchange cash
  • Implementing a more flexible sick leave policy
  • Installing plexiglass or other transparent barriers where appropriate

The altered aspects of day-to-day operations coupled with the major life changes (and resulting physical and mental health implications) for the people powering your organization can have a serious impact. Implementing thoughtful safety measures shows your commitment to safety. Investing extra time and money to protect people supports everyone’s success.

Community Mental Health

Prolonged isolation, the death of a loved one due to COVID-19 or the absence of a steady paycheck can negatively impact an individual’s mental health. Between February and March 2020, the Disaster Distress Helpline received a 338 percent increase in call volume.

While it’s too soon to tabulate definitive statistics, news outlets are covering stories about healthcare workers on the frontlines of battling the disease who have experienced depression and died as a result of suicide. Mental health problems, exacerbated by the pandemic, have the potential to drastically affect employees in all industries and sectors of our society.

Providing access to mental health education and resources, like counseling and tele-health appointments, can have a positive impact on your workforce – especially with individuals who are struggling with isolation due to the pandemic. You can help your staff by reducing the stigma around these topics through open conversations, sharing of resources and keeping your teams connected.  Make sure your workforce knows they are not alone. 

Community Physical Health

Maintaining a physically healthy population is critical to your ongoing success. Enforcing limitations such as work from home orders and self-quarantining should apply to anyone in your workforce who has been exposed to COVID-19, regardless of visible symptoms. These limitations are crucial to protect the health of your employees and the general public. 

Even essential businesses that might be short-staffed in this high-demand time need to enforce these procedures to protect the physical health of everyone else. It’s not only the business that is at risk – it’s also a risk to the safety of the entire community. Consider the recent spikes in cases at nursing homes and prisons due to close quarters and highly vulnerable populations. While these facilities cannot afford to close, they are cancelling visitation and taking additional precautions to ensure the protection of workers and residents. 

Vulnerable populations, similar to the communities mentioned above, require additional protection due to their higher risk for serious illness upon contracting the virus. Look for ways to minimize face-to-face contact for those who may be vulnerable. You can do this by structuring your work environment to allow for appropriate social distancing or providing the option to work remotely. 

The pandemic requires your community to be adaptable to new challenges. Take advantage of current and reputable resources, such as this OSHA publication (starting on page 18), to identify risk levels for your organization and maintain peace of mind. 

Leading Your Community Through COVID-19

Topic 2

Effective planning allows your organization to resume operations sooner – mitigating a negative impact to finances and enabling your organization to adapt. Adapting to a changing environment is critical to successfully navigating the pandemic, and positioning your organization to thrive. However, the ability to adapt is only possible if a strong plan is in place from the start.

Identify and manage the full spectrum of safety needs to lead your operation using the four pillars of emergency management: prevention, preparation, response and recovery.

Prevent

Assess vulnerabilities and mitigate threats.

Prepare

Build confidence through planning and practice.

Respond

Put practice into action. Swift and smart.

Recover

Come together, heal and move forward.

Prevent

As the consequences of the pandemic take root in the U.S., current prevention efforts must focus on the issues to come, including how your organization can prevent transmission, implement safety audits and update prevention processes related to the pandemic.

Stay ahead of what’s to come by:

  • Following and implementing CDC/Public Health guidelines for physical safety to prevent the spread of the disease.
    • Encourage everyone to stay home if they are sick.
    • Determine if your operation demands additional safeguards and how you’ll apply them.
    • Research and learn local county and city public health guidelines.
  • Developing support plans for the transition from remote work or learning back to “normal” operations.
    • Learn how adding staff or adjusting employee responsibilities to help adhere to the above guidelines (facility cleaning, taking and recording temperatures of students, staff and customers, etc.) can ease the transition back to your facility.
  • Understanding why absenteeism may rise and how to manage accordingly.
    • Consider cross-training workers in various jobs to cover absences or fulfill peaking services.
    • Build in exposure-reducing measures like staggered work shifts.
    • Be flexible with sick leave policies for employees caring for sick family members or children due to school or child care closures.

Prepare

The right plan may remove some of the stress related to safety and work expectations. Take the time to think through what is required to lead as the current public health situation evolves.

Be prepared by:

  • Auditing and updating emergency operations plans.
    • Develop communication and support plans including procedures for reporting when community members are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Identify possible future threats to your company like interrupted supply chains or delayed deliveries.
    • Have emergency plans in place, along with training, to easily absorb change.
  • Developing security standards for remote operations.
    • Think about telecommuting employee network access and ways to limit disruption and downtime.
    • Develop routine security testing processes for remote workforce.
    • Identify gaps in resources to mitigate interruption.
  • Considering how your facilities could be used to serve the local community in crisis.
    • Determine the government requirements and permits needed to make your facility available.

Respond

COVID-19 crisis response efforts are ongoing, but there are several ways organizations can improve response to both the disease itself and the societal issues that it creates. A good response starts with training the people in your building to understand the response plan. Good training enables confident actions in unexpected situations.

Showcase a smart response by:

  • Ensure efficient, two-way communication across the organization and trusted sources internally to combat misinformation.
  • Provide adequate and appropriate training and informational material about worker health and safety, including proper hygiene practices and the use of any workplace controls (such as personal protection equipment).
  • Launch a forum for answering worker (or parent) concerns and internet-based communications.
  • Inform staff how to respond if they, or someone they know, gets sick.
  • Engage with local health providers to ensure accurate direction.
  • Connect employees with local resources for reporting concerning behaviors or threats.
  • Provide documentation on how to share sensitive information while working/learning remotely.
  • Keep staff engaged and create a healthy work culture at a distance.
  • Adjust your social activities to a virtual format wherever possible.

Recover

Stay aware of the nuances and safety issues that continue to emerge. Plans that include preventing and preparing to deal with fallout from any public health enable a stronger and faster recovery.

Keep moving forward by:

  • Developing or collecting up-to-date resources to help staff return (or continue) to work without fear.
  • Embracing and supporting employee mental health initiatives.
  • Updating your recovery plan to account for multiple phases of operation.
    • Consider local economic impact and how your organization may need gradual steps to return to full functionality.
  • Identify additional financial resources – like government and community foundation grant programs.
  • Understanding how your organization can assist recovery efforts for others in the community.

Free Resource for Organizational Leaders

See how the Path to Safety can safely guide organizations through a global pandemic.

Respond to COVID-19 in your community with Prevent, Prepare, Respond, Recover

See the expanded infographic with the proven step-by-step methodology for leading organizations through pandemics and other crises.

Download the Full Infographic

Solutions to Enhance Safety During and Beyond this Pandemic

Topic 3

We know the need for real-time communication has never been greater. Policies are changing everyday and people want to feel safe and informed from reliable resources.

Leaders across all types of communities want professional support and tools to enhance safety in each new phase of this pandemic and beyond. Forward-thinking solutions already exist, leveraging innovative technology that empowers you to lead with confidence.

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