CDC to retail industry: Now is the time to dust off preparedness plans

On February 28, the National Retail Federation convened more than 450 retail leaders for a conference call with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and Dr. Lisa Koonin, Health Preparedness Partners, LLC, provided an update on COVID-19 and the U.S. government response.  

Coronavirus Resources

Visit NRF's Coronavirus Resources for Retailers page for timely updates and helpful information surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the United States there are a relatively limited number of cases — 63 total — and most of these patients are doing well.

It is important retailers look at their preparedness plans, in case it becomes necessary to mitigate the spread of this outbreak.

CDC highlighted four key preparedness areas for businesses and employers to consider:

1. Continuity – Develop a plan to monitor and respond to high levels of employee absenteeism. If a large number of people become ill and need to stay away from the workforce, consider how that will impact your business operations. Take the time now to cross-train staff and identify priority services if you are faced with less staff.

2. Protecting the Workforce – Encourage sick employees to stay out of the workplace. Sick leave policies need to be flexible and consistent with public health guidance. It may be necessary to develop an emergency sick leave policy.

Ramp up routine environmental cleaning and disinfecting every day. Routinely clean, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs.

If you have staff traveling, advise them to check CDC’s latest travel notices. Employees should check for symptoms before traveling and should not travel if they are sick. If they become sick while traveling, they should seek medical attention immediately.

There’s a lot of inaccurate news circulating. CDC is a reliable place to get information for employees: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

3. Customers – Not all business operations have to be done face to face. Consider alternate ways to conduct business that minimize close contact between employees and customers. Consider signage that asks sick people not to enter your store. Make hygiene products like hand sanitizer available to customers and employees. Be ready to respond if customers need information and want to be reassured that sick employees are staying home.

4. Community – Outbreaks are not consistent in every community. It is important to identify reliable sources of public health information in every community you operate in.

For stores located in malls, collaborate with the other businesses on community resources for your employees and customers.

The United States has had the benefit of having advanced noticed of this pandemic.

“We weren’t caught without a plan. We were able to observe what was going on over there [China]. Advance notice was a big advantage for us. We’ve done very extensive planning, and we had a plan to enact,” Dr. Messonnier said.

We encourage retailers to continue to monitor NRF’s Coronavirus Resources for Retailers web page, which will be updated as the situation evolves.

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