May 21, 2020

CDC Specifies Health and Safety Actions for Reopening Businesses

As jurisdictions across the United States ease pandemic restrictions and workplaces emerge from weeks-long lockdowns, new guidance from CDC provides a “menu” of recommendations for maintaining the health and safety of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance specifies practices for protecting staff and patrons at childcare facilities, schools, day camps, restaurants, and bars, as well as workers and commuters on mass transit systems. A separate section discusses actions for businesses with workers who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

For each type of business, the guidance recommends actions appropriate to “scaling-up operations”; promoting hygiene practices; intensifying cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation; promoting social distancing; training staff; and monitoring and preparing for a reemergence of illness. CDC recommends that businesses establish and maintain communication with health authorities in local and state governments to determine the current state of mitigation in their communities. Employees who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 should be sent home, and employers should immediately notify local health officials, other staff, and customers. Areas used by the sick worker should be closed off and not used until after they are cleaned and disinfected. Businesses should wait 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection.

CDC notes that “some amount of community mitigation is necessary … until a vaccine or therapeutic drug becomes widely available.”

The recommendations for businesses appear in Appendix F of “CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again” (PDF). Other sections of the document summarize CDC’s plans for disease surveillance, provide links to agency guidance on infection control and contact tracing, offer guidance on testing asymptomatic populations, and describe indicators that public health officials can use to assess disease occurrence and hospital readiness in their communities.