More than 250 people in the local business community logged on to learn more about the coronavirus, or COVID-19, as the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce held a COVID-19 teleconference to discuss business continuity on Tuesday.
The chamber was joined by local experts to share the latest information on COVID-19, as well as information on what businesses need to do to support their employees, customers and each other. Here’s a breakdown of some topics discussed:
“COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that affects the airways and lungs,” said Dr. Christian Raigosa, a family physician in charge of Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clarita medical offices. “Now we are aware that this is mainly respiratory droplets, which mean patients are secreting, whether they’re sneezing, coughing, and these droplets are landing on surfaces… Patients coming across these contaminated surfaces and touching their mouth (nose or eyes) is how this is spreading.”
Raigosa went on to show a graph, depicting the number of cases in each country. Though initially started in China, cases of coronavirus have skyrocketed across the globe, sparing almost no country.
“When that graph starts to flatten out is when the public health measures that have been instituted will have shown to be effective,” he added. “Currently, (the U.S.) is midway up that graph, and the hope is that within a few weeks, we can start flattening out this curve because it takes about 14 days for our public health measures, like social distancing, frequent hand washing and school closures to all take effect.”
“First and foremost, you should be allowing your employees to use their accrued paid sick leave for any virus-related illnesses,” said Brian Koegle, a partner at Poole Shaffrey & Koegle LLP. “We encourage you, it is the best practice, to be flexible in allowing the use of the other available paid leave benefits, such as vacation or PTO.”
Koegle went on to say that it is imperative to either develop or revise your written policy, outlining the steps employees need to take to help reduce the transmission of diseases in the workplace.
“This includes making sure employees wash their hands, providing hand sanitizers at workstations where appropriate, encouraging and reminding social distancing,” he added. “These are all good, best practices for employers to remind their employees to abide by, but they should be in written format in order to protect you, the employer.”
Though employers are permitted to ask their employees for a fitness for duty certification if they’re exhibiting symptoms, they cannot if they show no symptoms, nor can they ask specific questions of medical diagnoses.
But, because of the current circumstances, employers are allowed to ask for temperatures of their employees and customers as they walk in. “An employer is allowed to take all necessary precautions, not just to protect their business, but to protect the employees that work there.”
The city of Santa Clarita declared a local emergency proclamation last week.
“What that does is allows the city to have access to additional state and federal dollars that are being allocated through federal and state declarations of their own,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said.
With that declaration, the city made a number of commitments and changes to staffing, causing only essential city services to remain in operation.
“SCV Water expects no disruption to their services, (as well as) Edison (and) SoCal Gas Co. will continue to provide the regular services,” Smyth added. “We should not see any disruption to those as a result of the virus.”
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