Debunking Common Myths About COVID-19 in the Workplace
Before we get to debunking the 5 most common myths about COVID-19 in the workplace it is important to keep in mind that stopping misinformation before it spreads is crucial to public health. Communicate updates to your staff from trusted sources and encourage your employees to only share verified information on social media or in the workplace.
Here are the most common myths that you might hear around the office:
1. If everyone is wearing masks you can return to regular meetings and gatherings
While an effective and key part of reducing the spread of the COVID-19, face coverings are not a substitute for social-distancing measures. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Canadian Public Health have maintained that physical distancing is one of the simplest ways to control the spread of COVID-19 and this affects how you operate at work, regardless if you are wearing a mask.
By staggering shifts, increasing physical space between workspaces, maintaining a 6 ft bubble from other employees, postponing or switching to virtual meetings, and limiting access to high traffic areas you can all help reduce the chance of transmitting the virus. When planning meetings consider the space you are gathering in and reduce meeting sizes accordingly.
2. COVID-19 is easily transmitted through mail or other packages
Employees who regularly handle mail, shipments and other packages may have heard the common myth about COVID-19 that paper and other packaging can easily spread the virus. It has been found that COVID-19 has poor survivability on surfaces and the likelihood of catching COVID-19 from a package is extremely low.
Currently there is no evidence that COVID-19 is actively transmitted through commercial and imported goods. While it is possible that a package may have come into contact with the virus, because mail can take days or weeks to be delivered, and is shipped at room temperature, the risk of potential spread is low. Waiting 24 hours before handling and washing your hands can drastically reduce this small risk.
3. If someone in your office tests positive for COVID-19 you must immediately disinfect the workplace
Although it may be tempting to immediately begin disinfecting your workplace in the case of exposure, there are steps you need to take first to keep yourself and your employees safe. If someone in your workplace tests positive the CDC recommends first closing off the area and waiting at least 24 hours before cleaning or disinfecting.
The CDC also recommends waiting until off hours to vacuum the area, temporarily turn off any HVAC recirculation system but keep central air filtering systems on, and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Make sure your COVID-19 health and safety plan includes your step-by-step procedures for handling a positive test result and don’t rush to take action that may cause further exposure.
4. Thermal scanners can detect COVID-19 in the workplace
You may have experienced having your temperature taken before entering a store or medical office as a part of a COVID-19 screening process. While thermal scanners are effectively used to detecting people who have a fever, they do not detect if people are infected with COVID-19.
Temperature checks are an efficient way to screen for anyone who has a fever, a common symptom of COVID-19, but this does not equal a positive infection result. If used in the workplace, a high temperature should be a trigger for that person to get formally tested.
5. If you tested positive for COVID-19 you need clearance from a doctor to return to work
This is an important myth to debunk and include in any revised employee leave or health and safety policies. If someone at your workplace tests positive for COVID-19, or has been asked by authorities to isolate due to possible exposure, they do not need a doctor’s note or medical clearance in order to return to work.
Employees are able to return to work, in most cases, after following isolation criteria such as a 14-day quarantine, clearing a 24-hour period since the end of fever (without the use of medication), and being free of other COVID-19 symptoms. In both the US and Canada explicit medical clearance is not required to return to work.
Managing misinformation is extremely hard, especially with so many myths about COVID-19 in the workplace out there and many unknowns and constantly-changing regulations. Make sure you are communicating factual information to your staff members and encouraging habits and procedures that will help reduce risk and keep employees safe and healthy.