Public health officials ask employers, residents to prepare for COVID-19 | SummitDaily.com

Public health officials ask employers, residents to prepare for COVID-19

Summit County Manager Scott Vargo, center, speaks at a press conference Thursday in Denver about a case of the coronavirus in Summit County. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is pictured at right.
Scott Franz / KUNC

FRISCO — The new coronavirus has arrived.

On Thursday afternoon, state officials announced that a patient at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco tested positive for Colorado’s first case of the disease — known officially as coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has taken a proactive lead in coordinating response efforts at the federal level with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and at the local level with municipal public health departments. Now that the virus has arrived, officials also are asking members of the public to educate themselves on how to mitigate the spread of the illness.

FRISCO — The new coronavirus has arrived.

On Thursday afternoon, state officials announced that a patient at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco tested positive for Colorado’s first case of the disease — known officially as coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has taken a proactive lead in coordinating response efforts at the federal level with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and at the local level with municipal public health departments. Now that the virus has arrived, officials also are asking members of the public to educate themselves on how to mitigate the spread of the illness.

“We have been preparing for and expecting this situation for some time,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said during a press conference Thursday evening. “We have an incredible team in place to keep Coloradans safe and to contain the spread of positive cases. By acting quickly, we can have a better outcome for Colorado.”

The CDC is urging employers to take some time to better understand their obligations to protect their employees and to properly respond to the emergence of COVID-19 in the area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which published a guide for businesses and employers to respond to COVID-19 late last month — employers should be actively encouraging any sick employees to stay home, ensuring that sick leave policies are flexible and nonpunitive, and speaking with employees to make sure they understand the policies and the importance of separating themselves if they’re sick.

The CDC also recommends that workplaces emphasize proper hygiene by instructing employees to wash or sanitize their hands often as well as providing necessary materials like tissues, disposable wipes and alcohol-based hand rubs. Employers also should facilitate routine cleaning of communal areas in the workplace — including countertops, workspaces and doorknobs — and should advise employees to check themselves for symptoms before traveling.

Finally, officials are urging workplaces to come up with a response plan to ensure they can continue with essential business functions in the event of widespread absenteeism due to an outbreak. Employers should consider cross-training personnel to perform important tasks in case other key staff members are sick and should be prepared to alter or temporarily suspend operations, if necessary.

With heightened public awareness of the new coronavirus — especially following its emergence in Summit County — concerns among community members are certainly understandable. Individuals should keep in mind that symptoms closely mirror those of other respiratory illnesses like the flu or common cold.

And according to the CDC, flu activity remains high around the country with an estimated 32 million cases through Feb. 22. But that doesn’t mean symptoms should be ignored.

“We continue to assess and test suspected cases, identify people who may have been exposed to cases, and determine the need for monitoring isolation, quarantine or other restriction of movement and activities,” public health department Executive Director Jill Ryan said. “We are acting on all presumptive positive cases as if they were confirmed because a quick response is essential to minimize the spread of the virus. Public health is working closely with the CDC and local public health agencies across the state to ensure our response is proactive, strong and collaborative.”

If you do think you might have the virus, the CDC recommends separating yourself from other people and animals in your home, wearing a face mask when around others and avoiding sharing personal household items like dishes, towels and bedding. Sick individuals also should clean all “high touch” surfaces daily and be sure to practice proper hygiene in cleaning their hands often as well as covering coughs and sneezes.

Individuals who suspect they are suffering from coronavirus symptoms also should stay home with the exception of seeking medical care. Before visiting a hospital or doctor, individuals should contact the medical center to let them know you might have COVID-19. Then staff is able to take steps to prevent others from being exposed to the virus. When traveling, avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing services or taxis.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC website or the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s COVID-19 page. Individuals with general questions also can reach out to CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911, or email cohelp@rmpdc.org for answers in English or Spanish.

“The sooner we know we have a positive case, regardless of severity of illness, the more effectively we can respond to, limit and slow the spread,” Ryan said.

“We have been preparing for and expecting this situation for some time,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said during a press conference Thursday evening. “We have an incredible team in place to keep Coloradans safe and to contain the spread of positive cases. By acting quickly, we can have a better outcome for Colorado.”

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The CDC is urging employers to take some time to better understand their obligations to protect their employees and to properly respond to the emergence of COVID-19 in the area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which published a guide for businesses and employers to respond to COVID-19 late last month — employers should be actively encouraging any sick employees to stay home, ensuring that sick leave policies are flexible and nonpunitive, and speaking with employees to make sure they understand the policies and the importance of separating themselves if they’re sick.

The CDC also recommends that workplaces emphasize proper hygiene by instructing employees to wash or sanitize their hands often as well as providing necessary materials like tissues, disposable wipes and alcohol-based hand rubs. Employers also should facilitate routine cleaning of communal areas in the workplace — including countertops, workspaces and doorknobs — and should advise employees to check themselves for symptoms before traveling.

Finally, officials are urging workplaces to come up with a response plan to ensure they can continue with essential business functions in the event of widespread absenteeism due to an outbreak. Employers should consider cross-training personnel to perform important tasks in case other key staff members are sick and should be prepared to alter or temporarily suspend operations, if necessary.

Resources for employers

• Employer obligations to protect employees: Blog.EmployersCouncil.org/2020/01/27/employer-obligations-to-protect-employees-from-coronavirus

• Guidance for employers to respond to COVID-19: CDC.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html

• Employer disaster planning: Ready.gov/business

With heightened public awareness of the new coronavirus — especially following its emergence in Summit County — concerns among community members are certainly understandable. Individuals should keep in mind that symptoms closely mirror those of other respiratory illnesses like the flu or common cold.

And according to the CDC, flu activity remains high around the country with an estimated 32 million cases through Feb. 22. But that doesn’t mean symptoms should be ignored.

“We continue to assess and test suspected cases, identify people who may have been exposed to cases, and determine the need for monitoring isolation, quarantine or other restriction of movement and activities,” public health department Executive Director Jill Ryan said. “We are acting on all presumptive positive cases as if they were confirmed because a quick response is essential to minimize the spread of the virus. Public health is working closely with the CDC and local public health agencies across the state to ensure our response is proactive, strong and collaborative.”

Preventing illness
  • Avoid close contact with sick individuals
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Stay home if 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
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you do think you might have the virus, the CDC recommends separating yourself from other people and animals in your home, wearing a face mask when around others and avoiding sharing personal household items like dishes, towels and bedding. Sick individuals also should clean all “high touch” surfaces daily and be sure to practice proper hygiene in cleaning their hands often as well as covering coughs and sneezes.

Individuals who suspect they are suffering from coronavirus symptoms also should stay home with the exception of seeking medical care. Before visiting a hospital or doctor, individuals should contact the medical center to let them know you might have COVID-19. Then staff is able to take steps to prevent others from being exposed to the virus. When traveling, avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing services or taxis.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC website or the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s COVID-19 page. Individuals with general questions also can reach out to CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911, or email cohelp@rmpdc.org for answers in English or Spanish.

“The sooner we know we have a positive case, regardless of severity of illness, the more effectively we can respond to, limit and slow the spread,” Ryan said.

What to do if you have symptoms

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 — including runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever — public health officials recommend taking the following steps:

  • Stay home except to seek medical care
  • Separate yourself as best as possible from other people and animals in your home
  • Call ahead before visiting a doctor to allow the medical center to take steps to prevent others from getting exposed
  • Wear a face mask
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day
  • Monitor your symptoms and seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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