ELLSWORTH — Now is the time to plan, said Joe Folsom to Pierce County businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Folsom, Pierce County Economic Development Corporation executive director, released resources and guidance for businesses during the spread of the respiratory disease COVID-19. Folsom said he encourages businesses to come up with a comprehensive plan for how to respond to a variety of disasters.

The spread of COVID-19 already has hurt local businesses by forcing some to close their doors to customers and cancel events. Steps to contain the virus also have disrupted supply chains. The full impact of the pandemic on businesses is yet to be seen, he noted.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for businesses include:

  • Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. Visit OSHA’s website to learn more at www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/.
  • Make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws. Visit the Department of Labor’s and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s websites for more information.
  • Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites and flexible work hours. Practice social distancing. For employees who are able to telecommute supervisors should encourage employees to do so instead of coming into the workplace.
  • Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles and critical elements within your supply chains required to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or these supply chains are interrupted.
  • Set up authorities, triggers and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s infectious disease outbreak response plan, altering business operations and transferring business knowledge to key employees. Work closely with your local health officials to identify these triggers.
  • Plan to minimize exposure between employees and also between employees and the public, when public health officials call for social distancing.
  • Establish a process to communicate information to employees and business partners on your infectious disease outbreak response plans and latest COVID-19 information. Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumors, and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.
  • Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children if dismissed from school. Businesses and other employers should prepare to institute flexible workplace and leave policies for these employees.
  • Take the time now to learn about community-level strategies public health officials have in place in each community where you have a business.

There are a number of other resources businesses and employers can use during potentially difficult times.

Folsom also encouraged businesses and employers to test and review their disaster preparedness plan. He suggested taking the plan through a tabletop exercise with the team and making the plan as comprehensive as possible.

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