reopening

Reopening the Office? Here’s How to Stymie Transmission of Covid-19.

Businesses from Bangor to Barstow have begun reopening. As they do, the safety of their employees and customers — from both real and perceived risks — have become paramount concerns. Concerns over catching and spreading the coronavirus mean that the roughly 40% of workers able to work from home likely will continue to do so. But for the majority of workers, a physical return looms in at least some capacity.

Work that requires physical interactions — construction, retail, food service, entertainment, sports, medical care, education, and salons – will require significant changes to the physical environment and individual behaviors. In designing those changes, leaders should aim for a path-breaking strategy: creating behavioral protocols and built environments that break transmission paths.

While social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and wiping down surfaces make those workplaces safer, limiting the spread of the virus depends on identifying and disrupting systems of connections. It will require mapping out transmission networks and breaking key links in those networks, a strategy quite similar to the one the intelligence community has long used to break up illegal networks.

In other words, effective re-opening strategies focus on breaking up connecting paths rather than just reducing number of connections. Two workplaces might have equal numbers of potential connections through which the virus can spread; but if one workplace disrupts more pathways, it will be doing more to stop the spread of the virus.

The logic works as follows: All networks are made up of nodes or points and connections between them. In the case of the virus, a connection is a transmission pathway between points. That path could be airborne respiratory droplets or some surface. Airborne transmission occurs through face to face interactions or, in some cases, from droplets lingering in the air. The masks and barriers we’ve all become accustomed to are part of the strategy to break this path. Surface, or fomite, transmission occurs when an object’s surface has been touched many times by many people who transmit the virus to the object, which is then transmitted again to another person touching that surface, be it a door handle, bathroom keys, a chair back, whiteboard markers, conference room desks, the steering wheel on a forklift, or any number of others.

Both networks matter and must be understood. The first, a person-to-person (P2P) network, maps out which people physically interact with whom. It might seem that the key is to disconnect as many people from each other as possible, but that’s not as important as disconnecting key paths for the virus. For example, Barron Industries, a casting foundry in Oxford, Michigan, was required to remain open as a government supplier. It worked with the Economic Growth Institute and constructed a person to person network. That exercise revealed that certain individuals connected otherwise disconnected groups. In network theory, these are known as bridging links. In a pandemic, they can carry infection from one group to another, which is more damaging than it being carried from one person to another within a contained network. Therefore, breaking these paths by making bridging links virtual prevents widespread contagion.

The second network, a person-object/place-person (POP) network connects people to objects (or places) and then those objects back to people. Drawing a POP network requires three simple steps:

  1. Make a list of people and a list of objects
  2. Draw edges connecting people to the objects that they touch or locations they visit
  3. Draw a line between two people if they touch a common object or visit a common location

The diagram below shows a POP network for seven employees and five objects. The edges have been colored so as to identify which object the two people touch. The individuals identified as C, D, and E are connected because they all visit the coffee machine.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations rising in B.C., as 269 cases added from weekend

The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 continues to rise in B.C. after a weekend that saw 269 new cases confirmed and one more death.

Eighteen patients are being treated in hospital, including five in intensive care, up from a total of 13 hospitalized on Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday. The number of patients in hospital is now the highest it’s been in two months.

The latest update, which covers the last three days, brings the number of active cases to a new high of 913 out of 5,184 cases to date. The one-day total of 109 new cases confirmed on Saturday is also the highest number of new cases in one day so far.

“As we live with COVID-19 in our communities our goals continue to be clear. We need to minimize our new cases,” Henry said.

“Despite the recent outbreaks and clusters that we have seen in the past week and the rising case numbers, we still have low undetected transmission in our province. We are able to find and connect most people who have this disease.”

safty

334 businesses slapped with COVID-19 health, safety orders: WorkSafe BC

One of the hardest hit sectors of the economy during COVID-19 is also the one struggling the most with re-starting business safely, according to the latest data from WorkSafe BC.

The service industry — which includes businesses such as hair salons, schools, hospitals, gyms, hotels and restaurants — have racked up 104 orders out of 334 issued to up to July 3.

The next most common industry to receive an order as of July 3, is the manufacturing sector, which includes meat processing plants, which have been hard hit by COVID-19, including a poultry plant in Coquitlam, as well as breweries, sawmills and pharmaceuticals.

In mid-May, an outbreak at Superior Poultry was declared over, and the plant allowed to re-open after instituting safety protocols.

Still, WorkSafeBC reports that most employers are doing their due diligence when it comes to meeting industry-specific guidelines.

However, when employers aren’t taking measures to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure, they could be issued an order for health or safety violations.

For the most part, though, employers have been taking the proper steps to re-open their businesses safely during the provincial re-start plan.

“Overall, the vast majority of employers are taking health and safety very seriously during the re-opening. Our inspections are finding that businesses want to be in compliance, and our prevention officers are providing support to help them have an effective COVID-19 Safety Plan,” stated Ivy Yuen, media relations representative in an email to The Tri-City News.

Data is not broken down regionally, so it is difficult to ascertain how many Tri-City businesses were given an order to beef up health and safety protocols.

Since, June 26, WorkSafeBC has conducted more than 12,000 worksite inspections in B.C. related to COVID-19.

The focus of these inspections has been to ensure employers have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place, according to Yuen, who noted: “This plan needs to assess the risks to workers, and implement measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.”

Orders are usually issued as a result of an inspection or can be part of a follow-up activity.

Data posted by WorkPlace BC online shows that employers have a lot of questions about how to manage in the new pandemic reality. In recent weeks, it has has fielded 9,823 questions, 1,728 reports of potential violations and 21 workplace incidents.

There have also been 12,646 inspections, with the large service sector receiving the most at 4,615, followed by 2,988 for trade-related businesses, which includes supermarkets, retail stores and gas stations, 1,256 for the manufacturing sector, 886 for primary resource companies, such as oil and gas, 234 for transportation and warehousing, and 180 for the public sector, including government and law enforcement.

Other industries are being ordered to improve their safety protocols, according to the data.

Inspectors have issues 65 orders for the trade sector, 60 for construction, 18 for primary resources, three for public sector and two for transportation and warehousing, which includes taxis and ride hailing.