COVID-19

What employers need to know about the coronavirus

David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon Feb 10, 2020
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Oli Scarff/Getty Images
COVID-19

What employers need to know about the coronavirus

David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon Feb 10, 2020
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

As efforts to contain the coronavirus continue around the world, companies are thinking about how to reduce the risk to their workforce.

It’s a good time for employers to be diligent about addressing illness prevention in the workplace, according to Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.

“There are a couple of things that really are important, from a legal perspective. You don’t want to negligently or knowingly expose your workforce to a novel infection like a coronavirus,” Gostin told Marketplace’s David Brancaccio.

Gostin said employers should be proactive about protecting employee health, especially if they have an office in China or if employees have recently traveled there.

That means having more conversations about health with everyone, and encouraging workers to take a sick day or work from home if they need to.

Gostin emphasized that this doesn’t mean having these conversations with only some employees or engaging in racial stereotyping.

“Sometimes disease epidemics bring out the worst in us. You should never make special arrangements or single people out based on their nationality or their race,” said Gostin.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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