Preparing for a new normal in the business world

MARQUETTE — Local businesses might still be a ways off from completely restarting in the new COVID-19 world, but there are health and safety measures that need to be addressed in the meantime.

The Lake Superior Community Partnership hosted a Friday webinar that centered on topics such as protocols, personal protective equipment, contact tracing and others.

One of the panelists was Pat Jacuzzo, Marquette County Health Department director of environmental health, who explained the department’s local role in the pandemic.

“We provide guidance and coordination to the medical community through guidance that comes from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services,” Jacuzzo said. “We provide interaction and guidance and coordination with long-term care facilities with regard to their prevention and response and testing for COVID-19.”

Contact tracing plays an important role, he noted.

“Our communicable disease nurses are informed of positive cases, and they contact each positive case to determine high-risk exposure contacts,” Jacuzzo said.

The MCHD gives quarantine and isolation directives to each positive case and then follows them through the course of their illnesses, he said, plus it tries to determine who they’ve been in close contact with.

The Marquette County website at http://co.marquette.mi.us/departments/health_department/return_to_work_resources.php#Xr6ZTmhKiUk has return-to-work strategies for businesses, resources for COVID-19 operations, following cleaning and disinfecting procedures for reopening, and other topics.

He also suggested visiting www.blmcovid19.com for more ideas from the Business Leaders of Michigan. That website contains resources about construction guidance; practices for office spaces, residential services and health care outpatient services; and other subjects.

Jacuzzo said Marquette County and the state of Michigan is headed on the “down slope” of COVID-19 cases, but cautioned there should be strict prevention strategies to avoid an uptick.

“It’s almost important to note that within the Upper Midwest and Minnesota and Wisconsin, there’s areas that are seeing the highest national rates of increase in COVID-19 right now,” Jacuzzo said.

So as the state is opened up more and there is potentially increased travel, it’s important for businesses to help prevent the unnecessary spread of the disease in the area, he said.

Another panelist was Bob Thomas, chief operating officer for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Michigan Chamber Foundation.

The chamber, he said, wants to give Michigan businesses guidance about ordering PPE.

“It’s not a new term,” Thomas said of the oft-mentioned acronym in the coronavirus world. “It’s something that many industries have been employing for a long period of time.”

Categories are low, medium and high risk, but individual job responsibilities also will determine what equipment is needed, he said.

“You also need to provide that PPE at no cost to the employee, so it’s not something that they’re expected to purchase on their own, or it’s part of a condition for employment,” said Thomas, who noted training also must be provided.

He stressed that homemade cloth coverings are not considered PPE, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, especially for employees in high-risk workplaces.

Again, it depends on the risk level.

“In most cases, the cloth masks would be appropriate for low-risk situations,” Thomas said.

Julie Greffe, a Manpower client principal based in southwest Michigan, discussed the company’s Work Ready program.

Greffe said Manpower in the last week of April put together a survey asking how its companies are planning for recovery post-COVID-19.

“We learned that 68% of companies who responded have either not finalized their recovery plans yet or have not even started to build one,” Greffe said. “This is how Manpower can help.”

The company’s Work Ready program, she said, involves efforts such as health monitoring and worksite safety plans, with COVID-19 making Manpower view things differently and update its practices.

Those updates include work environment surveys and protocols to assist various types of risk in the work environment, Greffe said.

Hospital protocols

Also participating in the webinar was Gar Atchison, UP Health System-Marquette CEO and UPHS market president, who talked about protocols and coronavirus-related efforts in place, such as testing.

He said it takes about six hours to run a test.

“We can process about 125 COVID tests a day here at the hospital,” Atchison said.

An important message he wants the public to know, though, is that people should know where to go in case of a medical issue.

“Throughout this pandemic on a national and local level, we’ve seen a definite uptick in people who are putting off, really, health emergencies — afraid to call 911 — having heart attacks and strokes and not going to the emergency room,” Atchison said. “I think it’s very important that the message gets out that the hospitals are open. The hospitals are safe, and people should not hesitate to call 911 regarding an emergency.”

Atchison said the environmental services staff is constantly cleaning every surface throughout the facility.

However, he acknowledged that zero visitor restrictions still are in place, with a few exceptions.

“We’re reminded almost daily by some visitors that this is not a popular decision,” Atchison said. “I just want to remind everybody it’s the right thing to do to protect employees here, and in fact, the patients here and to protect the community at large.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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