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COVID-19: Questions and answers for employers

By Medisys on March 20 2020 | COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

What should we do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

If an employee is suspected to have COVID-19 while at the office (symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing), the TELUS Medical Advisory Council’s current recommendation is to give them a surgical mask if available, isolate them in a room, and have them call their healthcare provider for further instructions. They should stay isolated until safe transportation arrangements (not public transportation) are made for them to get home or to a hospital depending on severity and medical advice. When at home, they should generally continue to self-isolate for 14 days if their symptoms are compatible with COVID-19, or as instructed by their healthcare provider.

Should one of your employees be suspected of having COVID-19 while outside the office, the employee and their close contacts should be advised to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor their symptoms. Employers should support these individuals in self-isolation and working from home. If close contacts experience any COVID-19 symptoms, they should call their healthcare professional.


Should we cancel our upcoming conferences?

Yes; at this time and for the near future, public health officials are recommending practicing physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing involves actively minimizing close contact with others in the community. For organizations, a part of physical distancing includes suspending any large in-person gatherings. Meetings that can be held virtually should be, anyone who can work from home should do so.


Should we prohibit travel to certain locations?

As per the government’s recommendations and travel advisories, all non-essential travel outside the country should be avoided.

Public health officials are recommending that people returning to Canada from abroad self-isolate for 14 days and call their healthcare provider if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms.

Self-isolation means staying at home and avoiding contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus.

More information here.


Should we encourage working from home?

Absolutely. In the context of a pandemic, it is important that organizations encourage and support their employees to work from home. In the current situation, organizations should emphasize that a team player is one who works from home to reduce risk of exposure and spread.


What are the degrees of separation? If an employee may have come into contact with someone who may have come into contact with someone who was diagnosed, should they stay home?

Generally, public health will advise first-degree contacts of those who swab test positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate for a 14-day period. Unless advised by public health, it is not necessary for second-degree contacts to self-isolate, e.g. a friend of a friend. Second degree contacts may be advised to practice physical distancing, monitor for symptoms, and contact their healthcare provider if they develop any symptoms.

In the absence of a swab test, people who have had close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should also self-isolate for 14 days and contact their healthcare provider if they develop any symptoms.


What should we do if a case is confirmed in our office building but outside our employee group?

Ensure you maintain an open line of communication with your Property Manager / landlord to have a clear understanding of the measures and plans they have in place should a case be confirmed.


Employees are experiencing intermittent sick days with cold symptoms. Should we be advising these employees to stay home for 14 days even if they are feeling better?

Yes. In a time of physical distancing, employees should be working from home as much as possible in the first place. If that’s not possible and they have to go to work, they should self-isolate for 14 days if they experience any flu-like symptoms, as those are similar to the COVID-19 symptoms.


What if someone in the employee’s household is experiencing symptoms but the employee feels fine? Should they self-isolate for 14 days?

In case of contact with the regular cold or flu, employees should self-monitor for 14 days in case symptoms develop and increase their personal space from others whenever possible. If symptoms do develop, employees should self-isolate immediately.


Public Health Contact Information re: COVID-19:

Alberta: 811
Ontario: 1-866-797-0000
British Columbia: 811
Saskatchewan: 811
Manitoba: 1-888-315-9257
Quebec: 1-877-644-4545
PEI: 811
Newfoundland: 1-888-709-2929
Nova Scotia: 811
New Brunswick: 811
Nunavut: 1-867-975-5772