May 27, 2020 - Economy

CDC issues guidelines for reopening offices: Masks, handshake bans and more

An illustration of contact tracing among employees

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines on Wednesday detailing how office buildings can reopen following months of social distancing amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

What they're saying: The guidance outlines steps for employers to ensure they "create a safe and healthy workplace and protect workers and clients." The CDC urged caution and careful planning before bringing workers back to office buildings.

Details... The CDC advised employers to foremost determine whether their workspaces are ready for occupancy.

  • That includes proper ventilation systems, increasing the flow of outdoor air and ensuring no hazards emerged during the shutdown.

Office guidelines should be clearly communicated with staff and contractors that may visit. Management should "actively encourage" staff to report symptoms or potential exposure to the virus.

  • Sick employees should be sent home and "enhanced" cleaning and disinfection should take place following any confirmed cases in the office.
  • Employees should wear a cloth face mask "in all areas of the business." The guidelines also note to "[p]rohibit handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps."
  • Individuals are recommended to frequently wash hands and wipe down surfaces.
  • Daily health checks, including temperature screenings before employees enter the workplace, should be considered.
  • Staggering shifts and break times "as feasible" is also encouraged. Recommendations include incentivizing employees to minimize public transit, particularly during rush hour.

Employers should further seek to identify when and where their workers may be exposed to the virus, the guidelines note.

  • Hazard assessments of the workplace are advised, and employers should identify and mitigate areas where employees may congregate, including meeting rooms, waiting areas, entry and exit routes.
  • Modifying seats or workstations to accommodate social distancing is encouraged, in addition to installing plexiglass or physical barriers where distancing is not an option.
  • Consider using "ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a supplement to help inactivate the virus."
  • Visual cues to encourage distancing such as floor markings showing where to stand or wall stamps guiding foot traffic are advised. Elevator occupancies should be limited.
  • And "high-touch communal items" such as coffee pots or bulk snacks should be replaced with pre-packaged, single-serving options.

Read the full guidelines.

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