CORONAVIRUS: What You Need to Know

What do we Know about COVID-19 virus?

The COVID-19 virus is spreading from person to person, and there is now community

transmission in the United States. It is still unclear if the virus lives on surfaces. There is

evidence of transmission when people do not have symptoms, and there is some

evidence to indicate that the virus is spread more easily than the flu.


Symptoms of COVID-19

SYMPTOMS of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath—similar to flu

symptoms. The illness is mild in roughly 80 percent of the cases but can be severe in

older persons and in those with underlying medical conditions and can be fatal.

Information on the outbreak is constantly evolving. See the links at the bottom of this page

for the most up-to-date information.


Workers at Increased Risk within the UFCW membership

Working people are at increased risk if they frequently interact with potentially infected or

infected individuals. Workers who are at increased risk include:

• Health care workers are among those at highest risk: including those who work in

hospitals, long term care facilities and other health care settings;

• Workers who have been identified as “essential personnel” by their employers

during an outbreak or quarantine; and

• Other workers with broad exposure to the public including retail workers.


How is the Virus spread?

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

• Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

• Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or


These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be

inhaled into the lungs.


Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

• People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the


• Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been

reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the

main way the virus spreads.


Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that

has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but

this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.


Protection for Health Care Workers

The UFCW recommends that all potentially exposed health care workers have access to

adequate supplies of N95 disposable, filtering facepiece respirators, which are commonly

used in healthcare. Some employers have begun using respirators, such as elastomeric

half-masks and Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs), which are even more

protective than N95 respirators. Personal protective equipment also includes gloves,

gown and face shield.

OSHA requires the employer to fit test workers annually, as well as when the worker has

experienced significant weight fluctuation, dental work or other facial differences that

would impact the seal of a tight-fitting respirator. PAPRs use hoods and do not require fit

testing. Workers must be medically cleared to use respirators. All workers are entitled to

training on respirator use. Surgical masks are never adequate for respiratory protection.

Workers responsible for cleaning patient rooms, treatment rooms and equipment must be

provided appropriate PPE and training to protect them both from contracting the

coronavirus and from the strong chemicals used to kill the virus. If the employer introduces

new cleaning products into the facility, the workers are entitled to training on the product,

as required by OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.


CDC recommends the following protocols for Infection Control Procedures in

health care settings:

Patients with suspected coronavirus should be given a surgical mask and moved

immediately into an isolation room, preferably a negative pressure room. The facility’s

infection control plan should provide guidance on isolation, cleaning, sanitizing and

sterilization of patient care equipment.

All personnel who enter the patient’s room should use standard, contact and airborne

precautions—gowns, gloves, face shields and NIOSH-certified disposable N95 or

stronger respirators, such as powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs). Surgical masks

are not a substitute for respirators and do not protect the wearer. Donning personal

protective equipment (PPE) should be done in the following order:

a. Wash or gel hands

b. Gown

c. Respirator

d. Face shield or goggles

e. Gloves


When removing or doffing PPE, the user should assume the exterior is contaminated.

Doffing PPE should be done in this order:

a. Gloves

b. Eye cover

c. Gown

d. Respirator

e. Wash or gel hands

4. There should also be a facility protocol to evaluate workers who report fevers and

symptoms after exposure to a suspected and/or confirmed infected patient. Employers

should keep records of any worker infection, which should be investigated and presumed

to be work-related unless proven otherwise.


Retail Workers

The main route of exposure for retail workers to the virus is through contact with

contaminated surfaces or objects.

Workers should have access to adequate supplies of alcohol-based hand sanitizers at

the workstation as well as disinfectants to clean and disinfect workstations. Frequently

wipe down the workstation with disinfectant.

Take frequent breaks to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

Stay home from work if you exhibit symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as

coughing or shortness of breath. CDC recommends that if you do become symptomatic,

you should stay home and not come to work until you are free of fever and any other

symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptomaltering

medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).


Food Processing Workers

Workers in food processing plants work in close proximity to other workers. While you

are not exposed to the public, you could be exposed if a co-worker or supervisor is sick

or exhibits symptoms of illness.

Clean your hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-

95% alcohol or wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and

water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.

There should be adequate supplies of soap and water in bathrooms, and alcohol-based

hand sanitizers in the workplace.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Personal protective equipment, such as gloves, should be replaced on a regular basis.

Stay home from work if you exhibit symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as

coughing or shortness of breath. CDC recommends that if you do become symptomatic,

you should stay home and not come to work until you are free of fever and any other

symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptomaltering

medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).


PRIORITIES FOR THE UFCW for all industry sectors:

UFCW Local Unions should be encouraging employers to have the following in place:

• Comprehensive workplace plans to identify potential exposure routes, controls to

mitigate risk and training procedures.

• Protections for different groups of workers, following the Occupational Safety and

Health Administration guidelines.

• Policies to encourage sick workers to stay at home without the loss of pay, benefits,

seniority or other benefits.

• Economic policies for unemployment scenarios, where people are not able to be

at work or are required to work overtime to take care of patients.

• Emphasis on personal hygiene practices, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette.

• Adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, especially N95 respirators,

and respirator fit testing for highest at- risk worker, i.e. health care workers

• Protocols to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Protocols in case of a workplace or community outbreak, including possible selfquarantine

or workplace quarantine.

• Plans for supply shortages, triage, prioritization and other contingencies.

• Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before hosting and

attending events or large gatherings. CDC recommendations may change as the

situation evolves.



WHO and CDC recommend that you take the following precautions for avoiding

respiratory viruses:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially

after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing,

or sneezing.

• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are

visibly dirty.

• Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.

• Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.

• Clean surfaces you often touch.

• Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick. (see Priorities for



CDC doesn’t recommend that healthy people wear a facemask to protect

themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Only wear a mask if a

health care provider tells you to do so. While masks can help prevent people who

are already sick from spreading the illness, they’re not very effective for healthy

people trying to avoid getting it. Health experts recommend washing your hands

thoroughly and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.



U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/index.html

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-


• https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/2020/han00428.asp

• World Health Organization: who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-