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Interim planning guidance

In the event of a large-scale infectious disease outbreak, businesses and other organizations must both protect employees’ health and safety and limit the economic impact of the outbreak. The following guidance will assist businesses in preparing for continuity of critical operations if the COVID-19 coronavirus has a severe impact on Philadelphia.

This guidance is for schools, daycare centers, businesses, community centers, and other non-healthcare settings that are visited by the public. The City of Philadelphia is implementing the following strategies for its own workforce, and we encourage area businesses to do the same.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide up-to-date, reliable information on coronavirus as the situation unfolds. Read a letter from the Health Department to Philadelphia business owners and executives.

Develop or review a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)

  • Consider the essential resources needed to keep your business operating.
  • Consider the effects on business operations if absenteeism were 25–40%.
  • Identify and cross-train employees to perform essential roles in the case of severe staffing shortages.
    • Consider which employees would most likely be absent if schools close.
    • Identify alternate staff to fill essential positions.
  • Plan how to communicate and coordinate with employees, customers/clients, and suppliers during emergencies.
  • Consider trigger points to:
    • Reduce operations to core business activities with a diminished workforce.
    • Temporarily reduce business services.
    • Shorten hours of operation.
  • Consider on-site housing arrangements for employees performing critical roles, if this were to become necessary.

Encourage employees to stay home if they get sick

  • Develop flexible policies for employees who need to stay home when they or their family members are sick, particularly:
    • Policies regarding unscheduled absences.
    • Policies regarding the use of sick time.
    • Return to work policies.
    • Compensation.
  • Suspend policies requiring physicians’ notes for extended sick leave.
  • Educate employees about the availability of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Consider mandatory sick leave for employees with fever or respiratory symptoms.
  • Consider reassigning employees who are at an increased risk for severe complications associated with COVID-19 coronavirus away from direct contact with customers and clients.

Educate employees on the outbreak and preparedness

  • Provide employees with links to COVID-19 coronavirus information from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Provide information to employees regarding the business continuity plan.
  • Circulate information on respiratory etiquette and environmental cleaning procedures.
  • Encourage employees to create personal emergency preparedness plans.
    • Include alternative childcare arrangements, where applicable.

Reduce employee interaction and travel

  • Discourage the use of handshakes as a greeting between employees and customers.
  • Be prepared to encourage employees to work from home, if possible.
  • Be prepared to cancel large meetings.
  • Consider limiting or canceling business trips.
    • Avoid affected areas with active COVID-19 coronavirus transmission.

Provide essential technology and supplies

  • Work with IT to support continued communications (e.g., email, remote access, conference calls, webinars, etc.).
  • Identify supply needs for 2–5 week periods.
  • Stockpile infection control supplies, including handwashing products (soap, towels, hand sanitizers), tissues, and materials to produce educational materials on infection control (paper, printer ink, toner).
  • Place tissues and hand sanitizer in common areas of the workplace.
  • Ensure that soap and paper towels are stocked in restrooms at all times.

Keep the work environment clean

  • All office space and common facilities (e.g., bathrooms, conference rooms, workstations) should be cleaned regularly and surface areas disinfected daily.
  • For cleaning guidance for schools, daycare centers, businesses, community centers, and other non-healthcare settings that are visited by the public, visit the Health Department’s COVID-19 resources page.