The Foot and Ankle Wellness Center of Western Pennsylvania
The Foot and Ankle Wellness Center of Western Pennsylvania provides the following information and guidance on COVID-19, the illness that results from the coronavirus. This policy is intended to be flexible and provide guidelines, recognizing that new information about this illness may warrant changes as the situation develops. Our primary interests are to promote a safe workplace while continuing to provide excellent services to our clients.
This is a new respiratory virus that appears to have originated in Wuhan, China. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) has provided the following information about it (as of 3/6/2020).
The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild to very serious. Some individuals with the illness have no reported symptoms while others have experienced severe conditions, including a small percentage of cases where the illness resulted in death. The information so far suggests that most persons who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.
The following symptoms, may appear 2-14 days after exposure and consist of:
- shortness of breath.
The coronavirus, as a respiratory infection, appears to be a stronger virus than the flu. The CDC says that the death rate for those who contract the flu (influenza) is 0.1%. The statistics on the death rate for those who contract COVID-19 is recognized to be uncertain. In the first week of March 2020, it was estimated by the World Health Organization to be 3.4%, but many experts think it is more likely around 1% as many people who contracted COVID-19 were not included in the reported figures as their symptoms were so mild that they either never sought medical treatment or were considered to have the flu rather than COVID-19 (because of their mild symptoms) (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/07/world/coronavirus-news.html). Since most people who do get COVID-19 have mild symptoms, those not included in the count of persons who only had mild symptoms is likely a large group. This is important to remember to keep the situation in perspective. Despite the low death rate, we want our employees to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 for our employees and our clients. Accordingly, we want our employees to take the following precautionary measures, which are helpful not only for COVID-19 prevention but also flu prevention. Avoiding even mild symptoms is important not only for your own health but for the health of others so that transmission to someone else who is at higher risk can be minimized.
The CDC has provided the following risk assessment (please stay alert for updates from the CDC):
- For most people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low.
- People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on the location.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected international locationswhere community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with the increase in risk dependent on the location.
The CDC recommends the following:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. While it does not appear to be part of the CDC’s listed general precautions, if you don’t have a tissue handy, ** urges and directs employees to sneeze or cough into your elbow to lessen the spread of any virus you may have (i.e., cover your sneeze or cough, but avoid coughing/sneezing on uncovered hands).
- Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
See the attached hand washing guidelines from the CDC.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits.Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Also from the CDC:
- It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season. The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine and, if prescribed, taking flu antivirals.
- Older people and people with severe chronic conditions should take special precautions because they are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. [see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html]
- If you are in close contact with someone with COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider immediately and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure.
- If you are a resident in a community where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19 and you develop COVID-19 symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately and tell them about your symptoms.
- For people who are ill with COVID-19, but are not sick enough to be hospitalized, please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others. People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness.
- If you have been in China or another affected area or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you will face some limitations on your movement and activity. Please follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow spread of this virus.
The Foot and Ankle Wellness Center of Western Pennsylvania
The Company intends to comply with all applicable law. Beyond that, we recognize that flexibility is important as more knowledge about COVID-19 is gained. We will also take into account individual circumstances to apply reasonable approaches. At this point we adopt the following guidelines, consistent with the above CDC information.
- Any employee who is experiencing flu-like symptoms themselves or who has a household member with flu-like symptoms is directed to stay home and not come to work until after the symptoms for you and your family end. You should inform us of this situation so that we can consider whether to take steps to set you up for remote computer access. You are also encouraged to get advice from your physician and provide us with any pertinent information about whether you are or are likely to be contagious. Personal leave, and the Company’s paid time off benefits (vacation and sick pay) will be available to those who are ill or otherwise not working while on leave.
- All employees are directed to follow good contamination prevention measures which, in addition to the above, include properly washing your hands (20 seconds or longer with soap and water) as recommended in the attached CDC guidelines.
- We request that employees refrain from shaking hands and instead politely state that the Company has advised against it for the time being as a COVID-19 precaution.
- We ask that our staff evaluate and consider when to use alternatives to in-person meetings, regardless whether such meetings are sought to be held here or elsewhere. Serious thought and preference should be given to using computer/internet based applications to tele-meet or hold telephone conference calls. At some time, depending on development of COVID-19 in our area, we may prohibit in-person meetings with those outside the Company and may put limits on internal meetings.
- We similarly ask that serious consideration be given to whether to attend seminars or other group functions, based on the most current information about the development of COVID-19 in the area of the seminar, meeting, or activity.
- Employees who are traveling out of the country are, until further notice, required to inform [*name of one or two administrators and managers, or alternatively state “your supervisor” or “your department head” *] of the country(ies) and area(s) to which they are traveling. If it is a country or area considered to have a high incidence of COVID-19, the employee may be required to not come to the workplace for a designated time period following such travel.
- It is our preference and desire to make work from home arrangements for those we restrict from coming to the workplace, provided the employee does not have symptoms for which work is not advised. This will be done through phone and remote computer access arrangement and will be arranged on a case-by-case basis.
We look forward to and require all of your cooperation in this regard, giving due consideration to both your own health and the health of co-workers along with customers, contractors, and others with whom we interact. As things develop we will re-assess our approach, seeking to apply good judgment to protect our employees, clients, and reputation. Know that it is up to each person to do their part to minimize the spread of this illness. Thank you.
– Do we require a doctor’s note before allowing an employee to return to work following flu or COVID-19 symptoms?
– recommended position: Case-by-case analysis considering factors such as how long it has been since the employee was symptomatic, any then available medical recommendations from the employee’s physician (who may say that he/she does not want to see the employee in person as the person’s symptoms were sufficiently mild and to lessen the risk of infecting the doctor’s staff or other patients) or local/national health experts (such as the CDC recommendations), and the degree of confidence attributed to the employee’s descriptions of his/her situation.
– Will we direct employees to stay home when they believe they may have been somewhere with an increased risk of coronavirus exposure but it was not to an area known to be having a significant outbreak?
– recommended position/policy statement: Case-by-case approach, with employees asked to use good judgment on whether to remain home and not come to work in the event of a significant risk that they or an immediate family member has been exposed to the coronavirus. We recognize that it is not presently possible to determine clearly if this has happened and we do not wish to promote unwarranted fear (as an individual’s odds of exposure through normal activities are low). Preventive approaches are recommended where they are based on recommended approaches from infectious disease experts.
– Can remote access be provided to permit all employees restricted from coming to our offices to work from home (and thus continue to be paid)?
– recommended position: A case-by-case approach, depending on the job and the nature of the work at the time, the availability and effectiveness of the computer hardware and software, and the expected duration of the absence.