COVID-19 Business Update – Omicron (Part 1)
In these unprecedented times, the San Leandro Economic Development Team is working hard every day to support our local businesses. We are continually monitoring local and national resources and regulations, and are available to answer questions or direct businesses to resources.
With the latest wave of the pandemic well underway, we have compiled an overview of resources that can help businesses protect their staff and customers (Part 1) and later what they can do to plan for and handle the business impacts of the Omicron variant (Part 2).
Although Alameda County reports that 80% of residents are fully vaccinated, the number of COVID cases has shot to nearly 200 cases per 100,000 in California, nearly three times the pandemic’s highest levels seen at the beginning of last year. Throughout the pandemic, experts have focused on vaccinations, masks, and testing as effective ways to reduce coronavirus infections. We have gathered key information and guides below to help businesses implement these important measures. For a more comprehensive look at COVID-19 workplace safety, also see Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.
While “breakthrough” Omicron infections where the person was fully vaccinated but still got sick are occurring, there is evidence that such infections are more mild than for individuals who didn’t get vaccinated. Businesses can shorten the length of time that employees are out due to illness, isolation, or quarantine and reduce the expenses and difficulty covering for them by supporting vaccination. Guidance for businesses related to vaccination includes:
- Voluntary Vaccination – The Centers for Disease Control offers a guide for Workplace Vaccination Programs, which can include helping staff be more comfortable with vaccination in general, to incentives, and more. Businesses can also find out a lot of vaccination ideas from industry associations.
- Mandating Vaccination – When taking this approach, businesses should review the legal implications carefully, as mentioned in California Labor Laws & Mandating COVID-19 Vaccination (natlawreview.com), particularly as it relates to health and religious accommodations.
- Customer Vaccination – According to Guidance for California Businesses Regarding COVID-19 Safety Measures and Reasonable Accommodations, businesses may also limit customer access to their facilities unless they’ve been vaccinated. Owners do need to think through health-condition and religious accommodations and also want to have clear staff guidance to help avoid discrimination against other protected groups. These principles also apply to customers who show symptoms of COVID-19 or who decline to wear mask.
The second layer to protect staff and customers is masking. For a while employees were not required to wear masks at private businesses under certain circumstances, but the State of California and Alameda County have reimposed mask mandates in indoor public spaces and in other workplaces through at least February 15.
Our improving understanding of masks and how they reduce the risk of transmission has resulted in a better sense of the best solutions. A good reference for mask ranking can be found on the State of California’s Get the Most out of Masking publication. Of course, letting employees and customers know a business’ expectations and helping them meet them are important as well.
While testing has some distance to go before it is quickly and readily available, there are a number of ways to get tests.
- At-Home Tests – Individuals are encouraged to plan ahead and order tests for delivery. Through a recently rolled out program residents can apply to received four home COVID-19 tests free per address from the US Postal Service. To buy home tests, CBS News recommends an online resource called FindACovidTest.org that provides links to common tests and online sources. Under new Federal regulations, medical insurance providers will reimburse covered individuals for as many as eight rapid COVID-19 tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) per month.
- Lab Tests – More accurate testing is available from medical providers and can also be found for free through the Alameda County testing page. In some cases, same day testing is available, and testing sites have the advantage of being set up for individuals who may be ill or showing COVID-19-like symptoms.
People who believe that they have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms but are unable to access a test should stay home and follow isolation (when ill) and quarantine (when exposed) instructions. Businesses can find out more about current guidance at the Alameda County Public Health Department Isolation and Quarantine page. A big piece of the timing for isolation and quarantine relates to testing for the disease.
The Omicron Variant came roaring into our lives and will hopefully leave quickly as well. Until then we hope that this information will help keep businesses, employees, and customers safer.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the Omicron business resources discussion in which we’ll cover how to deal with some of the business implications of the variant.
As always, for assistance applying or understanding what resources are best for your business, you may reach out to the East Bay Small Business Development Center, where free advisors are available by phone or email in multiple languages. They can help with applying for relief, guiding you through available resources, cash flow concerns, supply chain interruptions, workforce capacity, insurance coverage and more – at no cost. You can learn more at https://www.eastbaysbdc.org/ and reach them at 510-516-4118 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They recommend that you apply for counseling so that an advisor knowledgeable in your type of business can respond.
And for continued information on available programs and resources, check back here at www.sanleandronext.com frequently, the City of San Leandro COVID-19 Business Resources page, or visit our Economic Development webpage. You can also reach us at email@example.com or 510-577-3311.