As firm offices reopen, doctor gives 5 tips for COVID-19 safety

AT-070520-COVID-Coronavirus Reopening factors CHART

Over the summer, some states started to ease their stay-at-home mandates and mandatory closure of non-essential businesses. Firms have needed to make the decision on whether to ask or permit staff to come back to the office. No matter what form reopening takes for a firm, it will be important to follow medical advice on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Understanding the reasons behind precautions like the six feet of distance we’ve all gotten used to, or wearing masks, helps staff and clients comply with those precautions. Anthony Harris, M.D., chief innovation officer and medical director of WorkCare, gives his top tips for safety in reopening below.

Masks are a must

By now, we all have been told about the importance of masks in protecting us from contracting COVID-19 and transmitting it if we are an unwitting carrier.

“It’s not enough to just wear one — your client has to, too,” said Dr. Harris. “Make sure you’re educating your clients on the importance of masks, and ask them, if you are going to meet with them, if they will be compliant. That education piece might have to happen.”

Hand hygiene

Harris emphasized the importance of hand washing as you shift environments from home back to the office. Don’t forget to maintain the frequency of hand washing when you’re back in an environment where the sink may not be as close by.

“Good hand hygiene in the office can decrease rates of transmission from one person by 85 percent,” Harris said.

Air dryers and coffee pots

Office bathrooms are some of the cleanest spots in an office, Harris explained, because it is typical to prioritize bathroom cleaning in an office environment. But consider removing air hand dryers, if you have them, as they can spread aerosolized disease particles.

And if bathrooms tend to be cleaned diligently, the communal coffee pot and water cooler may not be, so removing such community hotspots could impede the opportunity for COVID-19 to spread.

Maintain social distancing

I’ve never questioned the standard advice of staying six feet away from others to avoid passing the disease back and forth, but Harris explained why:

“The large droplets that we want to limit spread typically drop to [the] ground because of gravity at about five feet. Small droplets can be aerosolized. There’s about a three-foot diameter radius of particles floating around everyone’s head — you want to be outside that. The additional three feet is a buffer.”

This distance should be maintained indoors as much as possible, the doctor added. In addition to this, it is a good idea to open any available windows to promote airflow.

Gloves aren’t necessary

There has been some confusion around whether gloves are helpful in preventing the spread of COVID-19. They have their place, but in a firm office environment, they are not necessary.

“In fact, gloves may impede the opportunity to perform good hand hygiene,” Harris explained. “The type of gloves you wear may prolong the longevity of particles living on the surface. This virus can exist on surfaces for three hours to three days — it’s that persistent — without anything to impede its longevity. Our skin has natural oils, which can impede the virus, and we’re washing them frequently.”