ASE continues to schedule COVID-19 related events to keep you informed on best practices and new regulations.
VIEW UPCOMING ASE COVID-19 EVENTS
There have been over 2,400 reported deaths in the United States with over 143,000 reported cases.
As of March 30, it is reported that the global death toll from the virus is now over 35,000. COVID-19 has infected over 737,000 people across the world and spread to 177 countries and territories so far, qualifying it as a pandemic according to the World Health Organization (W.H.O.). Over 156,000 people have recovered from the illness.
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, March 13 over the coronavirus outbreak, invoking the Stafford Act to open the door to more federal aid for states and municipalities. President Trump has also declared a travel ban from Europe. The ban begins March 13 and lasts 30 days. Beginning March 16 at midnight the ban now includes the UK and Ireland. Click here to see Economic Impact of the Pandemic to help you better plan your workforce management
On March 16 President Trump issued 15-day Coronavirus guidelines for all Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. View the guidelines.
March 18, global automotive manufacturers took bold measures necessary to combat the growing global crisis surrounding COVID-19. FCA, Ford, and General Motors announced the temporary and precautionary closure of all facilities, until March 30, in order to do deep cleaning and to get plans in place for a return to production that incorporates best practices for preventing the spread of the virus.
Also on March 18, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which was passed by the Senate earlier that day. Mr. Mnuchin, the U.S. Secretary of Treasury, stated that the law is only the second in what is likely to be multiple legislative efforts to protect the economy—including workers and businesses—from the fallout of the spreading Coronavirus. The sick day provisions would be effective no later than 15 days after the date of enactment, which would be April 2, 2020, and would expire on December 31, 2020. Provisions of the new law can be found here.
Michigan Response and Resources
There are now over 6,400 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Michigan and 184 deaths.
March 23, Governor Whitmer announced an expansion of Executive Order 2020-21 that in order to suppress the spread of COVID-19, to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, to allow time for the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and to avoid needless deaths, it is reasonable and necessary to direct residents to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible. Executive Order 2020-21 shelter at home goes into effect March 24, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and continues through April 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
Additional Executive Orders have been issued:
- Executive Order 2020-25 allows pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of prescriptions for up to 60 days' worth of supply for patients and requires insurers to cover these emergency refills. The order applies only to non-controlled substances and gives pharmacists discretion to substitute therapeutically equivalent medications without prescriber approval if there is a shortage. Pharmacists must inform prescribers in writing of any refills dispensed under the order, which runs through April 22.
- Executive Order 2020-24 suspends the requirement for someone seeking unemployment benefits to request a registration and search waiver from their employer and allows anyone with an active unemployment claim to receive up to a six-week benefit extension. The order replaces Executive Order 2020-10, which Ms. Whitmer earlier issued to expand unemployment benefits. The order runs through April 22 and:
- Expands unemployment eligibility for specified reasons related to COVID-19.
- Allows individuals on a leave of absence granted by their employer to claim unemployment benefits.
- Specifies that “any benefit paid to a claimant that is laid off or placed on a leave of absence” while the order is in place will not be charged to the employers account. Please note that employers who are determined to have misclassified workers will not be able to take advantage of the potential tax savings under this provision.
- Suspends requirements that an individual be able, available and actively seeking work.
- Expands employer eligibility for shared work programs.
- Extends the maximum duration of state unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks.
- Allows an individual up to 28 days from the last day worked to file for unemployment benefits.
- Establishes that a willful violation of the order is a misdemeanor.
Governor Whitmer has declared a state of emergency to maximize efforts and assist local governments and officials to slow the spread of the virus. “We are taking every step we can to mitigate the spread of the virus and keep Michiganders safe,” said Governor Whitmer. “I have declared a state of emergency to harness all of our resources across state government to slow the spread of the virus and protect families. It’s crucial that all Michiganders continue to take preventative measures to lower their risk, and to share this information with their friends, family, and co-workers.
Governor Whitmer has ordered all K-12 schools to close from Monday, March 16 through Sunday, April 5. All of Michigan’s public universities are suspending in-person classes in favor of remote learning due to the coronavirus. Macomb Community College and Oakland Community College are also following suit. Most schools plan to restart in-person classes in April. As of Monday at 3pm she has also ordered all bars and restaurants to close, serving take-out only.
On Sunday, March 15, The Michigan Department of Transportation issued an exemption from seasonal weight restrictions for motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks. Direct assistance means transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its driver(s) to the immediate restoration of essential services, such as medical care, or essential supplies such as food, related to COVID-19 outbreaks during the emergency.
The Michigan Small Business Relief Program was approved and authorizes the MEDC to provide up to $20 million in support for small businesses. The funding is divided between $10 million in small business grants and $10 million in small business loans to support businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce. The $10 million in grant funding will be provided to local or nonprofit economic development organizations throughout the state to provide grants up to $10,000 each to support certain small businesses that have realized a significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Learn more here.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) activated the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center, and it has been working diligently with local health departments, health systems, and medical providers to make sure appropriate screening and preparations for Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are being made. As part of Michigan’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, Governor Whitmer has created four task forces:
- The COVID-19 Task Force on State Operations, covering all aspects of state operations, including employment and facilities.
- The COVID-19 Task Force on Health and Human Services, covering the provision of medical and human services, including protecting the healthcare workforce.
- The COVID-19 Task Force on Education, covering K-12 public schools and universities and colleges.
- The COVID-19 Task Force on Economy/Workforce, covering general economic impact, workforce, supply chain, business continuity, and related issues.
MDHHS has released interim recommendations for COVID-19 community mitigation for businesses, workplaces, schools, community organizations, health care institutions, and individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and health profiles.
To slow the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan, the Governor recommends some of the following as mitigation strategies.
- Learn about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
- STAY HOME WHEN YOU ARE SICK, and Individuals at risk of severe illness should consider staying at home to avoid others who are sick.
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, keyboards, cell phones and light switches.
- Communicate and reinforce best practices for washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes.
- Be sure to maintain a supply of medications, food, and other essentials in your house.
- Cancel or postpone large gatherings, conferences and sporting events (e.g. events with over 100 people).
- Reduce in-person gatherings and activities, especially for organizations with individuals at risk of severe illness. Consider offering video or audio of events.
- Consider tele-learning or tele-work opportunities, where feasible.
- Limit non-essential work travel.
- If you care for a loved one living in a care facility, monitor the situation, ask about the health of the other residents frequently, and know the protocol if there is an outbreak.
- Limit visitors at hospitals and other facilities to only those who are absolutely necessary and implement screening of visitors for temperature and respiratory symptoms.
For more information on the Michigan response and actions, click here.
National Response and Resources
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued interim guidance for employers on Coronavirus (COVID-19). The guidance includes recommended strategies for employers to use now to prepare for for a possible U.S. outbreak including information about creating an infectious disease outbreak response plan and related resources. To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, the CDC reminds employers to maintain the confidentiality of people with confirmed Coronavirus infection and to avoid making determinations of risk based on race or country of origin.
Test kits are in limited supply. The current death rate is pegged at about 3.4%, but it is likely much less as the number of actual cases are unknown due to lack of testing.
The federal government is stepping up. Congress passed a bill for $8.3 billion in emergency funding. More than $3 billion of that funding will go to the research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics — and some of that financing will likely find its way into the coffers of startup companies working on technologies to combat the disease. Another $2.2 billion will fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including $950 million to support state and local health agencies, according to a breakdown of the spending in Politico. About half of the $950 million will be distributed within the next 30 days to help states pay for test kits and services, with no state receiving less than $4 million. The bill also includes a $300 million carveout to help ensure that all Americans can receive a Coronavirus vaccine once it’s developed — regardless of their ability to pay. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.
There have also been questions raised about how the Coronavirus current situation is impacted by the ADA and Rehabilitation act. In response, the EEOC has posted a notice detailing what employers should know. The federal agency advised that ADA and Rehabilitation Act rules continue to apply, but they do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the CDC about steps employers should be taking. Specifically:
- The guidance addresses how much information an employer may request from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce during a Coronavirus-like event. The EEOC explained in an FAQ that ADA-covered employers may ask these employees if they are experiencing influenza-like symptoms, such as fever or chills and a cough or sore throat. Notably, all information about employee illness must be maintained as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.
- In another FAQ, the guidance discusses when an ADA-covered employer may take employees’ body temperatures during a Coronavirus-like event. The EEOC noted that in general, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination. However, where pandemic influenza symptoms become more severe than the seasonal flu or the H1N1 virus in the spring/summer of 2009, or where pandemic influenza becomes widespread in the community—as determined by state or local health authorities or the CDC—then employers may measure their employees’ body temperature. "However, employers should be aware that some people with influenza, including the 2009 H1N1 virus, do not have a fever," the guidance cautions.
- The guidance also addresses whether the ADA permits employers to require employees to stay home when they have symptoms of the Coronavirus. Yes, they can, according to the EEOC. "The CDC states that employees who become ill with symptoms of influenza-like illness at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace," the guidance notes. When the illness is akin to seasonal influenza or the 2009 spring/summer H1N1 virus, advising workers with symptoms of Coronavirus is not a disability-related action. Further, the ADA would permit this action where the illness is serious enough to pose a direct threat.
- In a final question underscored by the EEOC, the guidance discusses whether under the ADA, when employees return to work, employers may require doctors’ notes certifying their fitness for duty. Yes, according to the guidance. The ADA permits these inquiries "either because they would not be disability-related or, if the pandemic influenza were truly severe, they would be justified under the ADA standards for disability-related inquiries of employees," the EEOC said.
OSHA has a dedicated webpage, which has posted information about Coronavirus, including links to interim guidance and other resources for preventing exposures to, and infections with, 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). In additon, they have issued a new alert and guidance document on COVID-19 suggesting ways for employers to minimize and manage risks to their workforces.
Preventative steps for workers. OSHA recommends these general steps for all workers who may be exposed to 2019-nCoV:
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
OSHA also makes further recommendations by industry for healthcare, clinical laboratory, airlines, border protection, and waste management workers.
Relevant OSHA standards. The federal health and safety agency also said that while there is no specific OSHA standard covering 2019-nCoV, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to the virus. Among the most relevant are these: OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment standards (in general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), which require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
- The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker "employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm."
OSHA also noted that the agency’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) applies to occupational exposure to human blood and other potentially infectious materials that typically do not include respiratory secretions that may transmit 2019-nCoV. However, the provisions of the standard offer a framework that may help control some sources of the virus, including exposures to body fluids (e.g., respiratory secretions) that are not covered by the standard.
ASE has curated a list of helpful resources to assist employers in protecting their employees and plan for future outbreaks or spread of the illness.
ASE COVID-19 FAQs for Employers
ASE COVID-19 Related Events
ASE COVID-19 Employer Response Survey Results
ASE Virtual Work Resources
McLean & Company COVID-19 Resources (requires ASE member login)