What can your business do to fight coronavirus?
Dr. Rebekah A. Sensenig, an infectious disease specialist with Riverside Health System, offers advice.
After Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia and closed schools for the next two weeks, businesses are understandably seeking guidance as they navigate how to continue working during the pandemic. Virginia Business spoke on Friday with Dr. Rebekah A. Sensenig, infectious disease specialist and system epidemiologist for Newport News-based Riverside Health System, and asked her what businesses should be doing to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Here’s some of what she had to say:
Virginia Business: Can you speak to the value of social distancing as it relates to companies teleworking?
Dr. Rebekah A. Sensenig: So the whole idea of social distancing is really to try to decrease the peak of the outbreak and o we’ve seen that social distancing really does help create a more stable outbreak as opposed to a huge surge in the beginning. The studies that we have from this really came from the 1918 flu pandemic. And so if you look at the different ways that communities did it, if you look at Philadelphia, who did not do any social distancing, vs. St. Louis, who did do social distancing, Philadelphia had a much higher mortality rate and it was believed to be due to the surge overwhelming the hospital system. And so that’s really the purpose of social distancing — to decrease the rate of infection within the community. It’s an effective way to help minimize the spread.
VB: What else should companies be doing to reduce risk of contracting or spreading the virus?
Dr. Sensenig: They should be allowing employees to stay home if it’s possible. That’s No. 1. No. 2, you need to make sure that anyone who is sick is able to stay home. If they’re sick, for sure they need to stay home. They also need to have an environment that really focuses on cleanliness, on hand washing, making sure that everybody is washing their hands frequently [and] that there’s Purel available for them if they can’t wash their hands.
And then making sure that people are distant. So we don’t want people to be 10 people in a small cubby. We would like them to be at least 6 feet away because that seems to be the distance where there’s [the] most spread [of the virus] — within 6 feet. As opposed to having a big group in one small area, if people in the workplace can be more spread out, that can help as well.
VB: We keep seeing a lot of retail businesses send out messaging saying they’re disinfecting their stores and washing doorknobs, etc. Is this something other businesses should be doing too?
Dr. Sensenig: Yes. I definitely think that should be being done. COVID-19 seems to last on surfaces much longer than other viruses and so this is a big way that it’s being spread. And so when somebody touches a doorknob that has COVID-19 on it and then touches their face, that is a way that it’s getting people infected. The more that we can wipe down these handles and wipe down these surfaces and get rid of the virus on those surfaces, the less spread we’ll have.