FROM:           Walnut Street Center, Inc 

DATE:            March 11, 2020

RE:                 Coronavirus Update and Planning

The latest news headlines and pronouncements from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inform us that the respiratory outbreak known as Coronavirus has now spread to scores of countries around the world, including the United States. As of now Governor Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency. Declaring a state of emergency allows state agencies to bring in more resources, specifically for rescue, shelter and evacuation.  At this time there is no travel band in place but people are being asked to limit non-essential travel.

The remainder of this memo provides information about the Coronavirus and the steps the Walnut Street Center has or is currently taking.  Please review the information and policy statements below and let Human Resources know if you have any questions or concerns.

What is the Coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people.  A “novel” strain of Coronavirus, such as the current strain which the public and media are commonly referring to simply as “Coronavirus” (officially named COVID-19), is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. 

Infected people can spread the Coronavirus through respiratory secretions, typically through coughing or sneezing. According to the CDC, spread from person-to-person is most likely to occur in close contact, i.e., within 6 feet.  

Where can I get more information about Coronavirus? 

The CDC provides a wealth of information on its website, with frequent updates.  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

What is Walnut Street Center, Inc doing in response to the recent Coronavirus outbreak?   

Walnut Street Center, Inc is following the basic strategies recommended to employers by the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html  and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/   These include:

  • Proper hygiene and etiquette: wash hands, cover-up coughs and sneezes. Hand sanitizers have been distributed and placed in common areas as available, with additional disinfectants and cleaning supplies available from Eva O, Director of Operations. All staff are strongly encouraged to follow common sense prevention procedures such as covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent hand washing.  
  • Sick employees should stay home from work.  If you are experiencing symptoms of the flu or acute respiratory illness (fever of 100° or more; cough; sore throat; extreme fatigue; shortness of breath) you should not come to work until you are free of symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).  Please be sure to follow our normal call-in procedures.  Employees can apply accrued paid time pursuant to our normal policies in order to be paid for an absence from work caused by illness, including time to care for dependent children or other immediate family members who are ill.  
  • What to do if you become ill at work.  If you begin to experience influenza-like or acute respiratory symptoms while at work, you should immediately advise your supervisor.  You may be asked to go home until you are symptom-free for at least 24 hours.
  • Caring for a family member.  If you need to stay home to care for an ill family member, our normal leave policies apply. However, please monitor your own health on a frequent ongoing basis and notify your supervisor immediately if you begin to experience symptoms.  
  • What to do if you are at higher risk or vulnerability.  If you are at higher risk of infection or increased impact vulnerability, or if you have other special circumstances related to the current Coronavirus outbreak, you should notify Human Resources in confidence, so that a discussion may be had with you as to any needed accommodations.  And of course, if you are at increased risk of infection or illness-related complications you are strongly encouraged to contact your primary care provider for proactive guidance, or at the first indication of symptoms.  
  • Travel.  The CDC maintains and updates a traveler’s health advisory containing the latest guidance andrecommendations about travel and the Coronavirus. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html  Please check the CDC website before traveling. If you are traveling to an at-risk area, you should actively self-monitor for symptoms before returning to work. The CDC provides helpful guidance on  risk-assessment and self-monitoring. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html. Depending on the threat level at the time and place of travel, you may be asked to verify that you are symptom free before returning to work.  If you become ill while traveling, you should promptly call a healthcare provider for consultation and notify your supervisor about the impact on your return to work.    The State Department on Sunday 3/1/20 advised Americans against traveling on cruise shipswarning that they presented a higher risk of coronavirus infection and made U.S. citizens vulnerable to possible international travel restrictions, including quarantines.  If you cruise you may be asked to verify that you are symptom free before returning to work.   
  • Routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces.  All staff should frequently clean their phone handset, keyboard, mouse, and work surface.  The front desk area should be wiped down frequently.  Disinfectant cleaning products are being placed in all conference rooms and food areas.  
  • Limit Social Contact.  For the immediate future we are limiting community-based activities that are non-essential.  
  • Individuals in our care should still attend Day Programs and Medical appointments but social activities – movies, mall, bowling, concerts, etc. should be limited whenever possible.  Our day programs will be running site-based programing until further notice.
    • Conferences, job-fairs and other group meetings will be cancelled or put on hold.
    • To better control access to the building we recommend employees/participants use the front door and/or the triple sliding door in the transportation drop off area and not the side or “Mystic Pantry” door.  
  • The well-being of our employees, individuals that we support and facility visitors, is our first concern. While the risks are currently very low in the United States generally, it’s possible that the Coronavirus outbreak will worsen and more directly affect us, our business operations and our community. That could happen quickly. We are paying attention to available sources of public health information, especially in the Greater Boston area.  Walnut Street Center has a Continuity of Operations Plan in place and employee are encouraged to review its contents.   Please feel free to make guardians and individuals know that we are paying close attention to this very fluid situation, and that we will be making ongoing decisions about appropriate measures to adopt to provide for the well-being of all.  Please keep me apprised of any concerns or questions that arise. 

Thank you for your cooperation, understanding, and compliance with the above policies.  Additional information and measures will be taken and announced going forward as needed.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to bring them to me or to the attention of your supervisor, Human Resources or any member of management.

Additional resources:

CDC – What to Do Flyer

CDC – Corona Fact Sheet

CDC – Covid 19 Symptoms