How To Support Employee Concerns During the Omicron COVID-19 Outbreak
Learn how employers should protect their employees and those of high medical risk during new COVID-19 variant outbreaks.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, employers are scrambling to reign in concerns around new variants while trying to ensure their businesses safely remain in operation. With employees at various health risk levels, companies are seeking information and solutions to better protect their people from viral transmission. Read our guide to learn more about the emerging Omicron variant and how you can reduce virus transmission through air purifiers, UV-C disinfection, contact tracing, and PPE solutions.
What Is The COVID-19 Omicron Variant?
The Omicron COVID-19 variant (B.1.1.529) was first identified in South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24th, 2021. After being designated as a Variant of Concern by the United States on the first of December, Omicron has quickly become the focus of the new COVID-19 winter 2021 surge.
According to the CDC's data, as of December 6th, 2021, the Omicron variant has been detected in over 15 U.S States and territories. Similar to the Delta variant, Omicron is also reported to spread with greater ease and pace than the original COVID-19 variant. Early data from the WHO suggest Omicron may spread up to twice as fast as the Delta variant.
Will Current COVID-19 Vaccines Remain Effective Against Omicron?
According to the CDC, current vaccines continue to be effective in reducing the chances of COVID-19 hospitalization and severe illness. CDC continues to recommend vaccines as "the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19 and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging." To learn more about available COVID-19 vaccines and to find a vaccination clinic near you, visit www.vaccines.gov
How Can I Protect My Employees From COVID-19 And Emerging Variants?
For companies, employee safety has always been of the utmost priority. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and surges of new variants, many employers wonder how they can protect their employees? While there is no one magical solution, companies can put numerous viral mitigation controls and practices in place. Read on to learn six ways to protect your employees from COVID-19 and new variants.
#1: Increase Cleaning And Improve Disinfection Protocols
A go-to for infection prevention has always been stricter cleaning and disinfection regimens. For companies facing employee concerns regarding new COVID-19 variants, providing visual efforts to ensure their safety always provides peace of mind. As per recommendation by the CDC, have your cleaning crews sanitize your facilities multiple times a day. Focus heavily on high-traffic and high-touch points such as reception desks, lobbies, break rooms, bathrooms, and high-density workspaces.
Consider also taking your disinfection protocols to the next level with UV-C sanitization. Available in stand-alone lamps, drop ceiling installations, and autonomous robots, UV-C disinfection is a tried and true method in eliminating pathogens. For commercial buildings, educational, and medical facilities, Sanalife offers a fully autonomous UV-C Robot. Capable of disinfecting 150,000 square feet on a single charge, Sanalife's UVD Robot provides unrivaled hospital-grade 254nm UV-C disinfection.
#2: Improve Building Ventilation And Indoor Air Quality
In addition to improving building cleanliness, the CDC also recommends indoor air quality (IAQ) improvements through ventilation and air purifiers. When indoors, your employees may be at significant risk of contracting COVID-19 through aerosol transmission. According to the CDC, increasing the delivery of clean air indoors can dilute potential airborne viral particles that may be present. IAQ improvements can directly reduce COVID-19 transmission risk as part of this multi-layered viral mitigation approach.
Common methods to improve IAQ include:
- Portable HEPA air purifier systems
- A higher-rate HVAC MERV filter, MERV 8-13, is recommended.
- HVAC rebalancing and upgrades to increase building-wide airflow and outdoor air intake.
- Open windows and doors for fresh outdoor air when weather and environmental conditions allow.
- Use stand-alone and high-velocity fans to increase air circulation within indoor spaces.
- Induct HVAC UVGI, or UL/CARB certified electronic air cleaning and air purifier systems.
#3: Provide Alternative Work Opportunities And In-Person Flexibility
One of the most cost-effective ways to ensure your employees' safety from COVID-19 variants is through implementing alternative work opportunities. Whether it's through hybrid working models, alternate schedules, or temporary work-from-home status. Providing your employees with work flexibility allows them to remain in control of their health and not feel pressured to return to work even when they're ill.
If you have employees within the high-risk category for health, providing them with in-person flexibility will help alleviate potential COVID-19 concerns. Additionally, some companies are altering their operational hours to reduce employee exposure when using public transportation in high-population metro areas.
#4: Hand Hygiene, Onsite PPE, And COVID Testing Availability
In the workplace, encouraging your employees to practice COVID-19 measures may be the best solution to ensure their safety. Often overlooked, hand hygiene has always been a critical component of infection prevention. Even before COVID-19, frequently washing and sanitizing one's hands has always helped stifle the spread of viruses and bacteria.
The best way to remind employees of hand hygiene practices is through the numerous placements of hand sanitizing stations and correlating signage. Although individual hand sanitizer bottles are often cumbersome, commercial hand hygiene stations such as Sanalife's Smart Dispense Pro are designed for high-volume and continuous usage.
Another way to keep your employees safe from COVID-19 variant transmission is by encouraging the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when applicable. Often a stumbling point for employees is limited access and affordability of PPE. Therefore having an abundance of face masks and shields readably available onsite will allow your employees to acquire PPE when critical for their protection.
It's also important to encourage your employees to self-monitor their health. When an employee gets a common cold or demonstrates flu-like symptoms, their first concern is if they have contracted COVID-19. With COVID PCR and rapid testing often limited, your employees may avoid getting tested altogether, putting their coworkers at risk. Therefore, consider working with a COVID-19 testing firm to provide free onsite tests. This accessible testing access will encourage your employees to check their COVID-19 status whenever they feel at risk.
#5: Implement Contact Tracing And Health Monitoring Controls
Another method to help protect your employees is through contact tracing and health monitoring solutions. Since the pandemic's onset, most companies have adopted the CDC's recommendation of daily temperature checks. However, there are now more advanced methods of monitoring the health of your employees and thwarting potential COVID-19 transmission. Cloud-based contact tracing systems are now available to businesses in all industries.
Contact tracing solutions enable employees to self-report their COVID-19 status using a mobile app. When a positive COVID-19 case is reported, the system can determine 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree exposure through contact logging. Dependent on the protocols set, exposed employees can be notified to acquire a COVID-19 test or enter self-quarantine. These monitoring controls can help employers manage COVID-19 cases and provide continued protection to their staff with proper implementation.
#6: Ask Your Employees What You Can Do To Help Keep Them Safe
No matter your decision, it's always important to talk with your employees and HR head to understand what your company can do to improve health and safety. The evolving pandemic continues to challenge what defines a safe working environment. Therefore, your employees often know best what the proper steps are to restore peace of mind in the safety of their working environments. If you need help building a solution to protect your employees from COVID-19 variants, then contact Sanalife's team of IAQ and sanitization experts at www.sanalifewellness.com/contact.