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Sample COVID-19 response guidelines

The following is an example of COVID-19 response protocols that a startup issued to its staff in October 2020. Your venture may wish to keep these in mind as you develop your own COVID-19 protocols, but remember that specifics will need to change based on your startup’s situation, response team and local public health agency.


Who: All team members

Situation:

  • As of October 1, 2020, Ontario is seeing a growing number of COVID-19 cases.
  • The establishment of a workplace emergency response system, along with a COVID-19 Response Team, is required.
  • This document applies to any employee who tests positive or comes into close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • This document serves as a guide for the protocols to follow in response to an employee having been exposed to or having tested positive for COVID-19 in the three scenarios outlined below.

1. If an employee was exposed (direct close contact) or is experiencing symptoms

For the employee:
Please follow the procedure outlined below within 24 hours of initial news of your potential exposure or onset of symptoms.

  • Notify the health and safety officer and a member of the COVID-19 Response Team immediately of the exposure or symptoms.
    1. Collectively identify all colleagues you’ve come into direct physical contact with from the estimated time of your initial exposure or symptoms.
    2. Please provide as much information as you can regarding your situation, including:

-Any recommendations shared by the public health agency (if applicable)
-Any symptoms
-Work areas you operated in in any office space and/or lab since initial exposure (if applicable)

  • Obtain a COVID-19 test at a nearby healthcare centre
  • Stay home until your results are released or as instructed by the public health agency.
  • Share your test results with the COVID-19 Response Team.

For the COVID-19 Response Team and colleagues:
Please follow the action items below, guided by a member of the COVID-19 Response Team:

  • Identify all employees who have had direct contact (first degree) with the exposed individual, and provide them with the following two options:
    1. Stay home and/or obtain COVID-19 testing immediately.
    2. Continue working, but adhere strictly to wearing the appropriate PPE, maintaining physical distancing and following COVID-19 guidelines.
  • If the exposed employee visited any shared office space and/or lab within the period of estimated initial exposure, disinfect and wipe down all work areas the individual was present in.
  • The COVID-19 Response Team shall:
    1. Notify the entire company through email or Slack.
    2. Offer consultation for employees who came in indirect contact (second degree) or need to visit company work spaces, including opportunities to ask questions and express concerns, and grant requests to work from home until the exposed employee’s test results are released.

2. If one employee tests positive for COVID-19

For the employee:
Please follow the procedure outlined below within 12 hours of initial news of your test results.

  • Notify your supervisor and a member of the COVID-19 Response Team immediately of your positive test results.
    1. Collectively identify all colleagues you’ve come into direct physical contact with from the estimated time of your initial symptoms or exposure.
    2. Please provide as much information as you can regarding your situation, including:

    -Any recommendations shared by the public health agency
    -Any symptoms
    -Timelines of initial exposure or onset of symptoms prior to receiving test results
    -Company office spaces/work areas you operated in since initial exposure (if applicable)

  • Self-quarantine for 14 days or as recommended by the public health agency.
  • Keep in constant communication with the COVID-19 Response Team.

For the COVID-19 Response Team and colleagues:
Please follow the action items below, guided by a member of the COVID-19 Response Team.

  • Identify all employees who have had direct contact (first degree) with the COVID-19-positive individual.
    1. Request that they stay home and obtain COVID-19 testing immediately.
    2. Inform them that they will be contacted by a public health agency, as they have been directly exposed.
    3. Request a report of symptoms and names of other employees they came into direct physical contact with.
    4. Ask that they self-quarantine for 14 days or as recommended by the public health agent.
  • Speak to all employees who have had indirect contact (second degree) with the COVID-19-positive individual and provide them with the following two options:
    1. Stay home and/or obtain COVID-19 testing immediately.
    2. Continue working, but adhere strictly to wearing the appropriate PPE, maintaining physical distancing and following company COVID-19 guidelines.
  • If the COVID-19-positive employee visited any company shared office space and/or lab within the period of estimated initial exposure:
    1. Disinfect and wipe down all work areas the individual was present in.
    2. Mark the areas with coloured tape.
  • The COVID-19 Response Team shall:
    • Notify the entire company through email or Slack.
    • Offer consultation for employees who came in indirect contact (second degree) or need to visit company workspaces, including opportunities to ask questions and express concerns, and grant requests to work from home until the facilities have been fully disinfected.
  • If the COVID-19-positive employee regularly worked at the lab, co-ordinate with a third-party-certified COVID-19 cleaning service to perform a facility-wide disinfection/cleaning, after which workplace swab testing shall be performed to identify any COVID-19 particles that may have remained on surfaces.

3. If two or more employees test positive for COVID-19

For the employee
Please follow the procedure outlined in Section 2 (“For the employee”).

For the COVID-19 Response Team and colleagues
Please follow the action items below, guided by a member of the COVID-19 Response Team.

  • If zero COVID-19-positive employees visited company facilities in the past 14 days, refer to Section 2 (“For the COVID-19 Response Team and colleagues”).
  • If one COVID-19-positive employee visited company facilities in the past 14 days, refer to Section 2 (“For the COVID-19 Response Team and colleagues”).
  • If two or more COVID-19-positive employees visited company facilities in the past 14 days, shut down all operations at company facilities within 24 hours in a calm and orderly fashion.
    1. All shutdown activities shall be directed by XXX (for pilot/demo and operations) and XXX (for science and materials). Recommissioning and/or reopening measures will be carefully rolled out at an appropriate time, once the COVID-19 Response Team has deemed it safe to do so.
    2. All personnel who visited company facilities in the past 14 days should obtain COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine for the next 14 days.

      -Look for contact by a public health agency.
      -Keep in constant communication with the COVID-19 Response Team.

4. Company COVID-19 Response Team

Members

  • XXXX (CEO)
  • XXXX (COO)
  • XXXX (Director of R&D)
  • XXXX (Senior Director of Engineering)
  • XXXX (Laboratory Technician, Microbiology)

Responsibilities

  • To lead the execution of these protocols when any of the above scenarios
  • To provide guidance and decision making to company personnel for all COVID-19-related issues during these times.
  • To provide physical and emotional support. Any of the above scenarios can cause great anxiety for employees who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed, as well as for those they came in direct and indirect contact with. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help, or if you simply would like someone to speak to.
  • In the case of a complete shutdown, COVID-19 Response Team members are responsible for the safe recommissioning and/or reopening of the lab at the appropriate time.

We encourage open communication

During these uncertain times, real-time communication is not only encouraged but also necessary for maintaining a safe and orderly workplace.

Please refer to the Appendix below for additional information and resources related to COVID-19 response protocols provided by governmental, healthcare and service organizations.

We would also appreciate your feedback to continuously improve the company COVID-19 Response Guidelines for better safety for all.

Appendix

  1. Government of Ontario: COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open
  2. Government of Ontario: Operational guidance—COVID-19 management in schools
  3. MaRS Discovery District: Online COVID-19 screening tool providers