In response to the coronavirus outbreak, which thus far has not been reported in Forsyth County, county leaders are taking steps to make sure their employees don’t spread the disease.
At a regular meeting on Thursday, Forsyth County Commissioners approved changes to the county’s employee handbook to combat issues with coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, and other contagious health issues, including the flu
“With changing world events, coupled with our experience of employees coming to work with the flu, it became apparent to us that we needed to revise our employee policy to cover both the flu and emerging viruses, such as COVID-19,” said County Manager Eric Johnson.
Johnson said the county had rolled the policy our earlier in the week and needed commissioners to formally ratify the policy at the meeting. He said the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office would have their own policy but shared the county policy with officers.
The policy identifies symptoms and types of contagious diseases – such as the flu, mononucleosis, measles, mumps, chickenpox and others – and sets procedures for those who have symptoms or have traveled to areas that have been heavily hit with the disease.
“Obviously, what’s driven us to this is COVID_19 and the fact that, as we’re seeing, it’s popping up around the country and we have to assume it will make its way further into this area, so we need to have the tools in place,” Johnson said.
The change would also limit contact employees have with customers and other employees, gives department heads the authority to send employees home and requires those who travel to areas impacted by coronavirus stay home for the duration of the incubation period, about 14 days.
“We literally had an employee due to return from a vacation in a Level II country (countries with extra precautions) and a Level III country (countries that should not be traveled to), and we needed to have something in place to protect our employees,” Johnson said.
Employees who are not allowed to come to work would either have to use their paid time off days or be approved for unpaid leave.
The policy is written to include changes to coronavirus or any future outbreaks by the Centers for Disease Control, which Johnson said meant if another disease had a 21 day incubation period, for example, that would be how long employees would stay home.
“What we’re trying to do… is to be able to point our employees to the authorities that will define based on current events and can do that on literally an hourly basis,” he said. “If they identify another country, we don’t have to go back and identify.”
Employees who have to stay home for the incubation period will require certification from a health provider, which must be sent electronically to lessen the risk of spreading germs, before returning to work.
Johnson said the county is also working to make sure that employees have supplies of hand sanitizers and encouraging them to wash hands.