Preventing COVID-19 Spread at Work
Even as COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to rise in the United States, employers are working to determine how employees can return safely to their workplaces. That is no easy feat. Each decision needs to be approached in a unique way, based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in its area. That said, even if an employer doesn’t have access to a COVID-19 Risk Dashboard, they can help ensure employee safety by following some general guidelines.
Focus on the Basics
Workers should adhere to these four rules:
- Wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing a mask in public and when around people who don’t live in your household, which includes the workplace.
- Social distance. Workers should stay at least six feet apart from each other. To do that, OSHA encourages employers to establish flexible workplaces (e.g. telecommuting) and flexible work hours. However, if employees must come to work, employers can do simple things like rearrange seating in break rooms to maintain physical distance or reposition workstations.
- Practice good personal hygiene. This was true before COVID-19, but the good habit of washing hands regularly holds up as a way to prevent the spread of the disease.
- Get a flu shot. As we enter flu season, we must minimize the number of patients who get the flu and subsequently use our overburdened health care system. This simple precaution can’t be emphasized enough, because anyone showing flu-like symptoms will need to be treated like they have COVID-19.
Dr. Clay Dunagan, chief clinical officer of BJC HealthCare in St. Louis, shared how his health care system is preparing for a potential second wave of COVID-19 infections. “Everyone gets screened, workspaces have been enhanced for social distancing, and we’ve ensured that necessary personal protective equipment is available,” he said during the Express Scripts PBM Outcomes Summer Series. BJC also has made influenza vaccinations mandatory for employees.
Address Deferred Care
A recent study from the CDC shows that 4 in 10 U.S. adults deferred medical care due to fear of contracting COVID-19. And while we want to mitigate the spread of the disease, we want to ensure that chronic and other conditions don’t worsen due to a lack of treatment.
One way to avoid chronic disease exacerbation is through better condition management, especially among those at highest risk for complications from COVID-19 infection. At Express Scripts, we encourage continued and connected care for all members, through the use of our Health Connect 360 solution. It addresses most conditions that put patients at high risk for complications of COVID-19, all the while delivering guaranteed clinical and financial outcomes for clients.
Don’t Forget Mental Health
Providing mental health support for employees is as important as supporting physical health, especially during stressful and uncertain times. And we know that COVID-19 has caused unusual stress because we’ve seen the number of prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications increase by 34.1 percent from mid-February to mid-March.
One way to support employees’ mental health is by fostering workforce resiliency to cope with change. For example, BJC has:
- Set up phone lines for employees who have questions about their health.
- Established an emergency assistance fund for employees who are facing financial challenges like finding appropriate child care.
- Offered alternative lodging for employees who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and don’t want to expose family members.
We’re not going to get back to normal until we reach herd immunity, which a vaccine will be instrumental in achieving. However, until a vaccine is available and widely distributed, encouraging masking, social distancing, and personal hygiene and providing mental health resources will help curb COVID-19 infections while providing peace of mind to employees.
To learn more about Express Scripts’ customizable suite of solutions that address workplace health and safety, population health and clinical care, greater affordability, and resiliency to cope with change, go to Healthy Ways to WorkSM.