MASON CITY, Iowa - Against the backdrop of this recent surge in cases, several questions remain; what can employers do to protect their workers and customers? What does it mean by 'close contact'? Who should quarantine? Can I test out of quarantine? How do I keep my business operating during these uncertain times?
The Mason City Chamber of Commerce is looking at that.
During Tuesday's webinar with members of the business community, CG Public Health Director Brian Hanft shared the latest on Cerro Gordo County's COVID levels, which, as of Tuesday night, is at about 2,800 cases. He also discussed the potential doubling of COVID-19 cases within 21 days if current trends continue, and is encouraging employers to stress to their staff to get this year's flu vaccine, and also the rollout of when a COVID vaccine becomes available.
One topic that was brought up was how to continue work for critical infrastructure workers in fields like law enforcement, hazardous material providers, 911 providers, janitorial/custodial staff, food and agriculture workers, information technology, and transportation, even if there is some exposure to the virus. Hanft is emphasizing that when putting strict precautions in place, these businesses should call Public Health for guidance.
"If that is your type of business, and you may have potential exposures, your places of business should contact us to talk about those what those controls may be."
In addition, Kristle Percy with IowaWorks discussed the current rules regarding employee leave due to COVID-19. One of the key pieces of legislation for these rules is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This act, which ends at the end of December, requires certain employers to pay employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave if they are experiencing symptoms, if they tested positive, or in a 2-week mandatory quarantine. For part-time employees, it's based on the average hours of work per week, while full-time employees must be paid up to 100% (80 hours).
There may be some what confusion on how employers can navigate through this system, and Percy recommends employers to seek legal help regarding these matters.
"Reach out to your legal council, reach out to your accountants. They know the laws when it comes to employment size, and really lean on to them for that support."
As this is an ever-changing situation, Percy emphasizes the needs for employers and employees to be responsible.
"The main thing is seeking medical attention. The main thing for the employer is to verify there's some sort of medical documentation, whether they did the virtual visit with the doctor, or if they went in and physically saw an employer. For the employee, the other thing is to making sure you're taking care of yourself. Wearing your mask, do the best for social distancing, limiting yourself in your exposure, being aware of what this is doing to us in how it's changed our workplaces, our environments, our social settings."
The Iowa Economic Development Authority also released a powerpoint presentation on some frequently asked questions for employers. The presentation can be found here.