CORONAVIRUS AND THE WORKPLACE

[1]
image of microscopic materials Everyone’s eyes seem to be glued to the news lately for updates and alerts on what is happening with the Coronavirus now. Yet what do we really know about it and what can we do to make sure we never experience it up close and personal?

Now called COVID-19, the Coronavirus was first diagnosed in Wuhan, China in December. This odd name actually derives from the word corona meaning “crown,” and is based on the appearance of the spikes on the virus’s surface. The common type of coronavirus causes only mild to moderate upper respiratory symptoms, like a common cold, while a more severe type causes pneumonia and death. While this virus is commonly found in animals, some forms can mutate and transfer to people, as was the case with most of the original cases in China when specialists traced the virus back to an animal market in Wuhan, China. Mutating and transferring viruses sound like the stuff of movies, but the important piece of information to glean is how the virus is transmitted. Close contact with an infected person when fluids of the respiratory tracts are shared is the general idea health officials know, but specifics have yet to be discovered.[2]

Since this implicates the workplace, many workers are wondering what this will mean for workers’ compensation claims. If an employee is diagnosed with the Coronavirus, is this a compensable injury? In New Jersey, there is a public safety official presumption, not shared by Alabama, which means that an employee who shows hazards of their work environment caused the disease to be transmitted to them will shift the burden of proof to their employer to prove the employee’s work environment was not the reason the disease was contracted. While both are difficult outcomes to prove, the presumption strongly favors the employee being compensated.[3] Regardless of the state’s stance on compensation, employees have a right to a safe work environment, and many companies may soon develop growing flexibility and generosity when it comes to sick days and leave policies.[4]  Until then, the best plan of action for every employee is to take their health into their own hands.

As a first point of preparation, the key is not to panic. Being prepared doesn’t mean building a bunker and becoming a mole person until the CDC deems the coast to be clear. The best place to start is ensuring your home has the essentials you need should your area potentially be infected. Experts say the reason to stock up on necessities it to practice what is called “social distancing.” The fear is not that stores will run out of the items you need, but to avoid contact with potential carriers of the virus.

Talk with your insurance carrier about obtaining greater quantities of your daily medications, at least a few weeks’ supply. Doctors also recommend buying fever reducers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen ahead of time. Stock your pantry with nonperishable food and hydrating drinks like Gatorade and children’s Pedialyte. Cleaning supplies such as alcohol wipes and bleach are a vital step in prepping your home because these household cleaners are proposed by infectious disease specialists to be your best bet at ridding surfaces in your home of the virus. As far as face masks are concerned, whether these are a necessary step in preparedness is a hot topic of debate. Experts seem to agree only on the usefulness of those already sick in wearing one so as not to spread the virus to others.[5]

A final step on the road to readiness is having a plan. Make a decision in advance on what to do if childcare becomes unavailable or schools close. If you live a fair distance from elderly parents or relatives, get in touch with neighbors or friends near them who can be at the ready to provide assistance should that become imperative. Finally, talk with your employer about telecommuting as a possibility. If this isn’t feasible, make an alternative plan with your boss should the virus be found in your area. Don’t wait for an outbreak to occur before considering your readiness. Preparation today avoids panic tomorrow.

For updated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://bit.ly/2vONj55

If you are hurt on the job due to unsafe working conditions, seek legal counsel, as you may be entitled to workers’ compensation or other benefits. As we have since 1967, we will continue to protect the legal rights of our clients – those who are hurt on the job while working for Alabama employers.  If you have been injured on the job and want to learn your rights, please consider contacting the Nomberg Law Firm. Our office number is 205-930-6900 and website www.nomberglaw.com. Our office is located in Birmingham, Alabama. We handle cases throughout our great State.

 

[1] https://www.utmb.edu/covid-19.

[2] https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/01/24/798661901/wuhan-coronavirus-101-what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-a-newly-identified-disease.

[3] http://www.alabamaworkerscompblawg.com/blawg-post/a-look-at-the-potential-impact-of-the-coronavirus-on-alabama-workers-compensation-through-a-new-jers.

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-work-job.html?fbclid=IwAR1yhubKf0R-JNJxHNHidWVr0_6S1Fdf3sMffpazBjUaBQNLLEkk1BwKeyQ.

[5] https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/26/809650625/a-guide-how-to-prepare-your-home-for-coronavirus.

 

Bernard D. Nomberg has been a lawyer for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. In 2019, Bernard was named a Super Lawyer for the 7th year in a row.

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Steve Altmann has been assisting consumers and business owners with bankruptcy matters for more than 27 years. 

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