COVID-19 - COVID-19 In California and Steps For Employers to Take

CBRT Members and Deputies,

Following the first COVID-19 death in California, late yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide State of Emergency. This state of emergency will help streamline response strategies and help coordinate the appropriate responses at a statewide level. The emergency proclamation includes provisions that protect consumers against price gouging, allow for health care workers to come from out of state to assist at health care facilities, and give health care facilities the flexibility to plan and adapt to accommodate incoming patients.

While state and local health officials continue to identify potential cases of COVID-19 and our healthcare facilities prepare for and treat patients, the business community also plays a critical role in doing our part to ensure the health and safety of our employees and their families.

Fostering A Healthy Work Environment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided important resources and guidelines to help avoid coming into contact with the virus, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcoholbased hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Legislation Introduced To Address Worker Absences

One of the most important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is for workers to stay home when they are sick. Today, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) announced she will be introducing AB 3123, which will “protect workers from retaliation if they are quarantined or isolated during a public health emergency, like Coronavirus.” While the text of the bill is not available yet, according to the author, the bill would allow an employee to use accrued sick leave if the business they work for is closed by order of a public official. It would also allow them to take that time off to care for their child, whose school or childcare provider is shutdown due to a public health emergency. The bill would make illegal for employers to fire or in any way retaliate against an employee who is given an order by a public health official to be quarantined or otherwise isolated. We will update you on this bill when the language becomes public.

What Can Employers Do?

In the meantime, here are some tips for employers:

  • Do not instill panic. COVID-19 is a serious issue, but health risk to the general public in California remains low. While COVID-19 has a high transmission rate, it has a low mortality rate. From the international data we have, of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80 percent do not exhibit symptoms that would require hospitalization. It is critical employers educate their employees about the virus; it is equally important to foster an environment in which employees feel safe.
  •  Lead by example. Employers should lead by example. Showing up to work sick will only encourage your employees to do the same. Now, more than ever, it is vital to underscore the importance of fostering a healthy work environment.
  •  Encourage/sponsor flu shots. While the flu and COVID-19 are not the same and the flu shot cannot prevent COVID-19, contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time can lead to additional health issues. Remember, the flu led to the deaths of more than 10,000 Americans this year alone. Encouraging flu shots or coordinating vaccination events at your offices will help improve the health of your employees.
  •  Evaluate existing sick and leave policies. Employees are often reluctant to stay home when sick. Unfortunately, COVID-19, in most people, exhibits are a moderate chest cold. It is also highly transmittable and a serious issue for at-risk populations (the elderly and those with preexisting health issues). Ensure employees are aware of existing sick and leave policies and/or consider temporarily updating these policies to provide employees with greater flexibility should they become ill.
  •  Provide resources to your employees. Both the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided informative resources that can help educate employees:

Large Gatherings and Travel

While California public health officials have not yet recommended cancelling large-scale events, many employers have taken the proactive step of postponing or canceling conferences, avoiding unnecessary travel and limiting large employee gatherings.

As a reminder, the federal government has issued travel restrictions and advisories for a number of countries with large COVID-19 outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control has an up-to-date site with interactive map on travel risks and protocols.

Additional Resources

CBRT eNews

Stay informed on the latest news and events from CBRT by signing up for our eNews updates.