Bob Carr, MD, MPH, FACPM is the Chief Medical Officer of Kumanu, the former Corporate Medical Director of GlaxoSmithKline, and the immediate Past-President of the American College of Preventive Medicine.
The world as we’ve known it has changed—and that’s as true for business as any other sector of our society. While a fair amount of conversation has centered on the timing of when we will get back to work, little has focused on how. We now need to consider and tackle the challenges businesses will face when people begin the return to work or potentially encounter complex health, legal, regulatory, and HR hurdles.
The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) is a professional medical society of more than 2,000 physicians with an expertise in population health. Our members bridge the divide between public health, clinical practice and the health of populations in all sectors of our society and are ideally positioned to support small and large businesses during this critical transition.
While social distancing requirements may be eased, it is unlikely they will be eliminated. Workers will expect, and local authorities may require, changes to workspaces. The need to plan with correct and current guidance is now. The CDC has issued interim guidance is based on what is currently known about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
While the CDC interim guidance may help prevent workplace exposures to COVID-19, there are other more complex considerations required in the planning and execution of return-to-work especially for small businesses without significant internal health consultant resources.
COVID-19 as a respiratory illness can spread from person to person. Businesses and employers can prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 - according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration most American workers will likely experience low or medium exposure risk levels at their job or place of employment if the recommended guidance is followed. Employers should plan to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of disease transmission risk in the community and be prepared to refine their business response plans as needed.
ACPM and its members stand ready to work with the business community to interpret and operationalize new guidance from NIOSH, OSHA and CDC as they become available with an aim to ensure a thoughtful, safe and healthy return to work. Together we can create a safe work environment and reopen our economy.