Public Health Guidance for employers and individuals

By: Editorial Staff Posted: 03/18/2020

Information on measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus

Coronavirus

The presence of novel coronavirus in our community is a rapidly evolving situation. Our region’s public health professionals are working to provide timely, regular updates and guidance based in fact and science to employers and individuals.

Public Health Guidance

On March 16, Governor Jay Inslee announced that he will sign an emergency proclamation with new measures to slow the spread of novel coronavirus in our state. As he noted, we represent 2% of the U.S. population, but today, we have over 20% of the country’s novel coronavirus infections.

At midnight on March 16, there will be a mandatory two-week closure of all restaurants, bars, entertainment and recreational facilities, and leisure and non-essential activities, as well as additional limits on large gatherings. Affected businesses include, but are not limited to, theaters, bowling alleys, gyms and fitness centers, non-tribal card rooms, museums, art galleries, tattoo parlors, barbers, hair salons, and nail salons. Take-out, delivery and drive-through food and beverage services are not banned under the proclamation.

Businesses are expected to ensure adequate environmental cleaning of stores and must designate an employee or officer to implement a social distancing plan for their business.

At the local level, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Public Health Officer Jeff Duchin, MD, announced a health order that reflects the statewide measures and went into effect earlier today.   

The new measures for King County are:

  • All gatherings with more than 50 participants are prohibited until further notice.
  • All gatherings of 50 participants and below are discouraged, and they are prohibited until further notice unless previously announced criteria for hygiene and social distancing are met.
  • Restaurants, bars, dance halls, clubs, theaters, health and fitness clubs, and other similar indoor social or recreational venues must cease operations until March 31, 2020, or later if determined necessary.
  • Restaurants and food service establishments may remain open only for drive-through, delivery, and pick-up only, until March 31, 2020, or later if determined necessary.
  • All other retail such as groceries, pharmacies, banks, gas stations, hardware stores, shopping centers, etc. may remain open, provided they meet Public Health directives in the previous Local Health Order and align with the guidance for retail businesses and service operators to protect from the spread of COVID-19 which will be updated later today.

A note on grocery shopping: as Governor Inslee stated, the supply chain is strong today and we do not want to stress it unnecessarily. Grocery store workers are working around the clock to keep stores stocked. As you shop and prepare, we strongly encourage you to think of your neighbors, in addition to thinking about your family. Buy what you need, but please consider that when the shelves are bare, shoppers need to make another trip – increasing the potential for more contact and further infections.   

These measures are intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus and are in addition to the previous guidance, including practicing social distancing, teleworking, staying home if you are sick, and taking preventative hygiene actions, like washing your hands frequently.

For the latest information, please go to www.kingcounty.gov/covid.

Recommendations from Public Health-Seattle & King County

Because of the unique situation in King County, Public Health – Seattle & King County issued updated recommendations today. They recommend:

  • People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible. People at higher risk include:
    • People 60 and older
    • People with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
    • People who have weakened immune systems
    • People who are pregnant
  • Workplaces should enact measures that allow people who can work from home to do so. Taking these measures can help reduce the number of workers who come into contact with COVID-19 and help minimize absenteeism due to illness
  • All people should not go out when they are sick.
  • Avoid visiting hospitals, long term care facilities, or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you need to go, limit your time there and keep six feet away from patients.

These recommendations to minimize the intensity and frequency of close contact with other people and seek to minimize number of people who get sick.

King County Novel Coronavirus Call Center

  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you are a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact the County’s novel coronavirus call center: 206-477-3977.
  • The call center will be open daily from 8 AM to 7 PM PST.
  • For general questions about COVID-19 or Washington State's response, please call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.

Resources for employers

We strongly encourage employers to stay up-to-date on new developments. Public Health – Seattle & King County plans to provide daily briefings to the media at 11:00 a.m.

We encourage you to:

  • Review recommended strategies for employers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including:
  • Create a business continuity plan that clearly outlines roles, responsibilities, and policies to minimize the spread of infection at your workplace, anticipate absenteeism, and more.
  • Consider “social distancing” strategies that are feasible for your company to implement. This means increasing the physical distance between people to reduce the spread of disease, and could include:
    • Remote work options
    • Holding meetings by phone or video conference
    • Flexible work hours or staggered shifts
  • Prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin and maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed infections.
  • Make sure your employees have the information they need to use remote resources offered by your healthcare provider, like consultation over the phone and email, or e-visits,. For employers enrolled in the Chamber's association health plan, the Business Health Trust, you can see the services that Premera Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente offer here.

The Chamber, in coordination with other business associations, has been advocating to local, county, state, and federal officials for more help to mitigate the economic impact of the outbreak, especially for vulnerable businesses and employees.

The Governor has responded swiftly with expanded benefits programs and a resource list. These include programs such as SharedWork, which provides partial wage replacement to avoid layoffs, and standby, which suspends the job-search requirement for workers to collect unemployment benefits if an employer must make temporary layoffs. You can see a chart of available benefits for various COVID-19 scenarios here.

The County has been doing outreach through its Small Business Task Force for the COVID-19 Community Mitigation Branch of the Pandemic Advisory Task Force.

The Mayor has set up a business task force to help with the City's response to the economic impact of the outbreak. Chamber executive vice president Markham McIntyre will be representing the Chamber and our members on that task force. She also announced an initial recovery package, which includes expanding the Small Business Stabilization Fund, tax deferral, utility relief, and assistance to access SBA loans. You can view the elements of that package here. You can also find guidance for businesses and employers from U.S. Small Business Association here and learn how to apply for Amazon's $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund here.

Our Congressional delegation has been receptive to ideas that would help businesses during the crisis. We are creating a list of ideas that we will propose to our delegation. If you have ideas for help from the federal government, please send them to Mackenzie Chase (mackenziec@seattlechamber.com).

Guidance for individuals

Coronavirus is a respiratory disease that is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are within about 6 feet of each other, or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

There is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

You can help:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Practice excellent personal hygiene habits:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are 60 and older or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system.
  • Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health’s website (www.kingcounty.gov/COVID) or blog (www.publichealthinsider.com).

When to seek medical evaluation and advice:

  • If you have symptoms like cough, fever (100.4̊°F or higher), or other respiratory problems, call your primary care doctor. Isolate yourself and wear a mask before leaving the house. Do not go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. However, if you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

The Chamber continues to be committed to the health and well-being of our members and their employees. Please reach out if you need more information or resources.