Forum addresses business owners’ concerns about COVID-19 in the workplace
DILLON — A Business Leadership Forum on Wednesday, Aug. 12, that aimed to address local business owners’ questions about the pandemic was attended by more than 80 participants.
The forum — which was hosted by the Summit Chamber of Commerce and conducted with representatives from the Summit County Public Health Department — covered topics including the upcoming winter season, ways businesses can help keep case numbers low, workplace procedures for sick employees and public health plans for a possible uptick in cases.
Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence acknowledged what everyone is thinking about in the months ahead: ski season.
She said being nimble is the “name of the game” as the county looks at ski season. Lawrence noted that ski area officials from across Colorado met Wednesday afternoon with state health officials and representatives from the governor’s office.
“I will say, this isn’t going to be business as usual,” Lawrence said. “So how can we as businesses, how can we as the county respond and make sure that our economic growth is still on track while doing that in a very, very safe way and protecting our community.”
Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland went over the stages of reopening that the county has reached in the past few months, beginning with the stay-at-home order to where the county sits now in the safer-at-home phase. She discussed what would happen if virus transmission trends shift or a second wave comes, addressing concerns about another shutdown.
Wineland explained that public health would “not necessarily” impose another stay-at-home order but would instead look at the severity of trends, define triggers and analyze data. She gave the example of the restaurant curfew, which she described as a “targeted, proactive approach.”
“Certainly, you all would have good ideas … if we were needing to take some stronger mitigation approaches,” Wineland said about the business leaders tuned into the forum.
In the case of increased spread of the virus, Wineland said the business community would need to ensure that jobs can be protected if multiple disruptions occur due to exposures. She asked for businesses to help keep COVID-19 cases down by continuing with the five commitments: maintaining physical distancing, frequent and thorough hand-washing, wearing masks in public, staying home when sick and getting tested immediately when symptoms of the virus appear.
Summit County Environmental Health Specialist Hannah Wynd added that while posting the five commitments on the door of a business is one thing, it is another to actively discuss these commitments with employees and customers.
“I think really having that active managerial control over your business is super important and to have that open line of communication with those employees and customers to where an employee would feel comfortable coming to you, talking about whatever symptoms those might be and moving forward,” Wynd said.
Wineland said business also can help mitigate the spread of the virus by tracking all COVID-19 symptoms, encouraging employees to stay home when sick and encouraging employees to get a flu shot. Wineland stressed the importance of containing the spread of the flu as it overlaps with COVID-19.
A forum attendee asked whether a business could require a flu shot. Public Health Nurse Manager Sara Lopez responded that businesses can require certain immunizations, such as the flu shot, but have to provide a way for employees to opt-out due to an issue such as an allergy.
Public Health Nurse Lauren Gilbert addressed what to do if an employee gets sick or tests positive for COVID-19: The business should reach out to public health and would be connected to the contact tracing team, which Gilbert said would try to determine whether the employee worked while infectious and whether they had close contacts in the workplace. Close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes.
Another attendee asked whether employees could “test out” of isolation or quarantine by receiving a negative test result. Lopez said that false negative results are possible, so if a person has symptoms and has had exposure to a known COVID-19 case, they would need to remain isolated.
After a recent change in testing guidelines, the county no longer permits people who have tested positive to get tested again in an effort to be released from isolation. Though, the county is reviewing those guidelines after its testing percentage fell below state standards in recent weeks.
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