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Employers play a critical role in the COVID-19 response

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is here to help Pierce County get moving again in a healthy, safe way. Pierce County businesses can help lead the way to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 We see growth in the number of businesses experiencing small numbers of cases. The number of businesses experiencing one or two cases is growing.

We now work with about 15 businesses each day to:

  • Assess their cleaning, sanitation and infection control measures and help them make improvements.
  • Make sure employee health screenings are in place.
  • Identify and contact any close contacts of positive cases to ask them to quarantine and get tested, if needed. 

As of July 14, 23% of cases are among 20-29 year olds. This age group comprises 14% of the county population. This is our fastest growing age bracket for new cases.  

These are concerning trends for businesses.

We’re here to help you keep you, your employees, and your customers healthy. Here’s how we do that:

A person and a plan.

Businesses need a Safe Start reopening plan, which includes designating a COVID-19 safety supervisor. This person will also serve as the contact for the Health Department if we identify a COVID-19 case at your business.

Follow the state’s guidance for your industry and check out our COVID-19 Information for Businesses and Government Agencies guidance. Refer to our safety plan template to get started on your plan.  

More information for employers is available at our Safe Start webpage.

CoVID19_Mask up to stay opened up_Facebook

What happens if someone gets sick.

Expect a call from the health department if an employee or customer tests positive for COVID-19. Your Safe Start reopening plan will help you through the coming days. We will need to know the following:

  • People who might have spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of the infected person.
  • People who share tools or workspaces with the infected person.
  • People who carpooled with the infected person.
  • People who ate or took breaks with the infected person.

We will ask about work the person did while infectious and his or her schedule. We may ask you to provide additional information.

Employers and COVID-19 safety supervisors should protect and maintain the privacy of employees’ protected health information and respond to health department requests as quickly as possible.

Face covering order.

The state secretary of health’s order requires people to wear a face covering in all indoor public spaces and outdoors when maintaining 6 feet of physical distance isn’t possible. Medical and age-related exceptions exist for this order.

If someone is not complying with the face covering order, the state suggests businesses should do the following:

  • A business representative or employee should politely inform the customer or visitor of the requirement. Businesses may keep disposable masks to offer customers who do not have one.
  • If the individual still declines, the employee should politely inquire as to whether the person has a medical condition or disability preventing them from wearing a face covering. According to the state Department of Health, businesses cannot ask for details about medical conditions or disabilities. Do not ask for proof or documentation of a condition. 
  • For customers unable to wear a face covering, businesses are encouraged to offer accommodation, such as curbside pickup or delivery.
  • If a person refuses to wear a face covering and does not claim a medical condition or disability, employees should state the business cannot serve them and ask the individual to leave.
  • Employees or business representatives should not attempt to block a person from entering or remove them from the premises. If the person refuses to leave, employees should follow your businesses guidelines to respond to the customer. Businesses with questions about the face covering order or any other Safe Start related questions can contact the state’s Business Response Center.

Employees who are concerned a business is not adequately enforcing the face covering order or other Safe Start requirements can submit an anonymous complaint to Labor and Industries using the Alleged Safety or Health Hazards form.

Mask Up to Open Up.

People are curious about which businesses are seeing cases and where outbreaks are occurring. We learn where people were when they were sick about a week after they were in those places.

A better question to ask is: “What can I do to make sure I don’t spread COVID-19 to others?”

We continue to see that COVID-19 affects every geographic area of our community, all age groups and all ethnic groups. Traffic and cellphone mobility are up. This tells us people are going out and about, getting exposed, and exposing others. It might be at work, at a social gathering, during recreational settings, in a business, or at a demonstration. COVID-19 can spread anytime and anywhere people gather, even if the infected person does not feel sick.

The speed at which Pierce County returns to normal depends on all of us. Right now, case numbers are going up.

People in their 20s work many essential jobs across the county. Employers need to step up for Pierce County: Mask Up to Open Up.

We will continue carefully reviewing the data, and you can follow along on our dashboards. Learn more at tpchd.org/coronavirus.