Businesses should have contingency plans in place in case coronavirus arrives in the community and take care to disinfect workplaces regularly, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in guidelines released on Thursday.
"WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak," WHO said in its guidelines. "However, long term success cannot be taken for granted. All sections of our society, including businesses and employers, must play a role if we are to stop the spread of this disease."
The virus spreads like the flu. An infected person can spread coronavirus through coughs or sneezes, and the virus can linger on surfaces. Coronavirus also seems to be most dangerous for people over 40, which is a significant chunk of the U.S. workforce.
Practical tips for businesses to mitigate the spread of the virus and other illnesses include:
- Making hand sanitizer available throughout the workplace
- Remind employees to wash their hands thoroughly
- Display posters promoting cough etiquette
Safety while traveling has been at the core of coronavirus worries as the virus has spread to six continents. WHO recommends that businesses make sure employees and contractors find out the latest travel advisories from the government. For example, the State Department issued its most urgent travel advisory, telling everyone in plain language: "Do not travel to China," in late January.
WHO also stressed that employers tell workers with coronavirus-like symptoms, even a mild cough or low-grade fever, to stay home. The health organization recommends that employers do this even if the virus isn't in their community.
"Promote regular teleworking across your organization," WHO said in its guidelines. "If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community the health authorities may advise people to avoid public transport and crowded places."
COVID-19 has infected more than 82,000 people globally. Officials report 2,744 deaths among 78,497 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei, in mainland China.
The U.S. has 60 cases scattered across multiple states.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.