Protecting Workers Amongst The Delta Variant
August 16, 2021
On July 27, 2021, CDC released updated guidance on the need for urgently increasing COVID-19 vaccination coverage and a recommendation for everyone in areas of substantial or high transmission to wear a mask in public indoor places, even if they are fully vaccinated. New data began to emerge that the Delta variant was more infectious and was leading to increased transmissibility.
So, what’s new and different with the Delta variant? How can you continue to protect your workers through this time?
We will review a few key points from the CDC and OSHA below to help guide you through some workplace safety choices you will likely need to make in the coming days.
Differences with the Delta Variant
- The Delta variant is more contagious: The Delta variant is highly contagious, more than 2x as contagious as previous variants. Delta is currently the predominant strain of the virus in the United States.
- Some data suggest the Delta variant might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated persons. In two different studies from Canada and Scotland, patients infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients infected with Alpha or the original virus strains.
- Fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. However, vaccinated people appear to be infectious for a shorter period: Previous variants typically produced less virus in the body of infected fully vaccinated people (breakthrough infections) than in unvaccinated people. In contrast, the Delta variant seems to produce the same high amount of virus in both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people. However, like other variants, the amount of virus produced by Delta breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people also goes down faster than infections in unvaccinated people. This means fully vaccinated people are likely infectious for less time than unvaccinated people.
The Roles of Employers and Workers in Responding to COVID-19Employers should engage with workers and their representatives to determine how to implement multi-layered interventions to protect unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including:
- Instruct any workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers. A key way to protect such workers is to physically distance them from other such people (workers or customers) – generally at least 6 feet of distance is recommended, although this is not a guarantee of safety, especially in enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces.
- Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks,4 as appropriate, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE. In addition to unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers, CDC recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
- Maintain Ventilation Systems. The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads between people more readily indoors than outdoors.
- Perform routine cleaning and disinfection. If someone who has been in the facility within 24 hours is suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19, follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
- Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards: Section 11(c) of the OSH Actprohibits discharging or in any other way discriminating against an employee for engaging in various occupational safety and health activities.
- Help Facilitate employees getting vaccinated. Employers should grant paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects.
Read the full article on the OSHA website here.
HRS is actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation extremely closely. Our team will continue general operations per usual and will keep our website up-to-date with information regarding COVID-19.
YOU CAN ACCESS MORE INFORMATION VIA THIS LINK: COVID-19 Employer Resources