Retailers’ Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

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The following is adapted from the NYC Health Department’s General Guidance for Businesses and Non-Health Care Settings and NYC Small Business Services’ Guidance for Business Owners

1) What do I need to know if I have an employee who recently traveled to a country with ongoing spread of coronavirus?

People who arrived into the U.S. from China, Iran, Italy, Japan, or South Korea (all are areas with ongoing spread of coronavirus as identified by the CDC) are required to stay home and self-monitor for 14 days after their last day in the area. These employees should be excused from work so that they may comply with this directive. There is no clearance process. People without symptoms are not tested for the virus.

2) When should employees be asked to stay home?

If employees, regardless of recent travel history, have symptoms of an acute respiratory illness (including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath), you should recommend that they stay home until they no longer have a fever for at least 72 hours without taking any fever-reducing medications (like Tylenol, aspirin, or ibuprofen).

3. Someone tested positive for COVID-19 at my place of business. What should my business do?

There is no need to close down your business. Follow routine cleaning procedures “General Disinfection Guidance.” If you think you or your employees may have been exposed to COVID-19, monitor your health more closely than usual for cold or flu symptoms. If you develop symptoms (cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath), stay home and contact your medical provider. If symptoms develop during business hours, place the person that is ill in a private room away from others and ask them to wear a face mask. Sick employees should be sent home immediately.

4) What steps can we take to prevent respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu?

Good personal hygiene practices remain the best method for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Non-health care settings should encourage staff do the following to prevent infection:

  • Stay home if sick

    • If you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, STAY HOME. Call your employer and let them know. If you don’t feel better after 24-48 hours, seek care from your doctor.
    • Do not go back to work until you have been fever-free for 72 hours without the use of fever reducing drugs like Tylenol or ibuprofen.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Do not use your hands.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Do not shake hands. Instead wave or elbow bump.
  • Monitor your health more closely than usual for cold or flu symptoms.
  • Get the flu shot. Although the flu shot will not protect you from COVID-19, it will help prevent the flu, which has similar symptoms to this coronavirus.

5) What can I do to prepare for a potential local outbreak?

Create an outbreak response plan:

  • Review human resources policies and practices. Make sure they are consistent with public health recommendations and state and federal workplace laws.
  • Explore whether you can establish flexible work hours (staggered shifts) or work sites (work from home or telecommuting). This will allow physical distance among employees.
  • Identify critical job roles and functions. Plan out business operations with less staff or interruptions in functions. Consider cross-training personnel to perform essential functions.
  • Plan communication strategies with staff and business partners to share information and updates, and to reduce fear and misinformation.
  • If you have more than one business location, allow your local managers to take appropriate actions based on the conditions in each location. Outline appropriate actions in your outbreak response plan.
  • Share and discuss the outbreak response plan with your employees. Allow them to provide feedback and address any gaps in the plan.
  • Reach out to other businesses in your community, chambers of commerce, associations, and networks to create a unified plan.

6) What if my staff have family members who have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of coronavirus?

Staff who were not in an area with ongoing spread of coronavirus as identified by the CDC should continue to go to work if their family member who traveled from one of these areas has no symptoms.

7) Should I ask employees to wear face masks?

It is not recommended that employees who are not sick wear a face mask. Face masks are only recommended if directed by a health care provider. People wear protective face masks for many reasons, including seasonal allergies, pollution, or protecting those around them from a common cold. They should not be harassed or targeted for wearing one.

8) What if someone comes to my business and I think they have COVID-19? Should I report them?

  • It is illegal to turn someone away from your business (restaurants, stores, hospitals, and other public accommodations) and refuse service to people or make them feel unwelcome because of actual or perceived race and nation of origin.
  • It is illegal to harm or harass a person because of their race or the country they are from. Treat all people with respect and do not single them out based on their race, ethnicity, or what country they are from.

9) How can I disinfect my business if someone comes in and they appear to have symptoms?

  • Staff should wear and use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment according to your existing policies and procedures.
  • Have soap and paper towels in bathrooms at all times. Ensure that all hand-washing sinks are in good state of repair.
  • Use regular cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., Clorox, Purell, and Peroxide products).
  • Learn more:

10) What can I do to help decrease fear and discrimination related to COVID-19?

  • There is a lot of information circulating about coronavirus on social media and even in some news reporting that is not based in the facts. Stay informed and obtain information from trusted sources like your city’s Health Department, the CDC, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Implement good personal and public health practices to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.
  • Avoid stigmatizing people who have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19.

11) My staff and/or I are feeling stressed or harassed because of the outbreak. What can I do?

Emotional reactions to stressful situations, such as feeling sad, anxious, or overwhelmed; having trouble sleeping; or other symptoms of distress are normal.