Information for Community & Business Leaders
Religious organizations and non-profits, before hosting a food distribution site at your location, please read the Baltimore City Health Departments Guidance for Non-Profits and Food Pantries (updated 5/13).
We understand that there is increased anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.
COVID-19, which stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019, is a respiratory disease caused by a new virus.
More information for employers can be found in the CDC's Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and respiratory symptoms such as a new cough or difficulty breathing.
How is COVID-19 spread?
- COVID-19 is spread person-to-person. It is primarily spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly inhaled into the lungs. It is primarily spread between people who are in close contact with one another (around 6 feet). It can also be spread by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly eyes.
- People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Who is at the highest risk of developing severe disease?
- Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.
How can employees help protect their staff?
- Encourage sick employees to stay home
- Ensure flexible sick leave policies that enable sick employees to stay home, or employees to stay home to care for sick family members
- Ensure soap and water is available for frequent handwashing in the workplace. Employees should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer than contains at least 60-90% alcohol can be used if soap and water are not available.
- Place posters that encourage hand hygiene and staying home when sick around your workplace.
- Routinely clean all touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs, Use cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
What should I do if an employee is ill?
- We encourage all individuals who develop fever and cough or shortness of breath to stay isolated at home.
- Employees who develop symptoms should stay home or leave work as soon as possible if already at work.
- Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Individuals who are ill should minimize their interaction with others. More guidance can be found here.
Should employees monitor themselves for signs of illness?
- Given the ongoing community spread of COVID-19, individuals should continuously self-monitor for symptoms such as fever and cough or difficulty breathing. If employees feel ill, they should stay home and notify their supervisor.
What if my employee was tested and is positive for COVID-19?
- Per CDC guidelines, if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- If your employee was tested for COVID-19 and was positive, the health department will be made aware of the test result through mandatory laboratory reporting.
- The health department will interview the employee, and ask questions about where they spend their time, including their work environment. Based on when the individual developed symptoms and who they were in close contact with while symptomatic, the health department may reach out to the employer.
- The health department will discuss the specific situation with the employer and will make recommendations. This might include if any additional employees need to stay home or monitor for symptoms.
- The Centers For Disease Control has created two documents that detail instructions for both employees who become sick and protocols their employers should take.
I heard my employee was tested for COVID-19. How can I find out the test result?
- Test results for COVID-19 are considered medical information. Just like other types of medical history, individuals are protected by privacy laws for this information to be protected.
- The health department is not able to release test information to employers.
- The health department may contact employers as part of a routine public health investigation if additional information about close contacts of a case or other precautions needs to be taken.
What if my employee has a family member with COVID-19?
- Per CDC Guidance employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- Household members of confirmed COVID-19 individuals should stay and home and self-monitor for symptoms (fever and cough or shortness of breath) for 14 days after their last potential exposure to the ill family member.
If an employee is out sick, how can they get a test or doctor’s note to confirm it is safe for them to return to work?
- Due to shortages of testing supplies, most people will not be tested for COVID-19. To conserve testing supplies and personal protective equipment such as masks, testing is being prioritized for those who are critically ill and admitted to the hospital.
- Testing is not being prioritized for clearance to return to work.
- Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness or return to work. Healthcare provider offices are extremely busy and may not be able to provide such documentation.
- The employee is safe to return to work when:
- At least three days (72 hours) has passed since the patient is free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, AND improvement in respiratory symptoms (cough; shortness of breath) AND
- At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
- These are the same criteria that are used to end home isolation for those tested for COVID-19.
More information can be found at this CDC website.
If I am worried an employee might have had COVID-19, are there any specific cleaning recommendations?
- Clean areas that commonly touched such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, and workstations. Use household cleaning sprays or wipes according to the label instructions.
- Baltimore Together: Business Resources
- CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
- COVID-19 Guidance for Mass Gatherings
- Department of Human Resources Emergency Response Plan
- Senior Housing Guidance: Updated 3/27/2020