COVID-19: Businesses, Employers, and Workers

On August 11, 2022, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the COVID-19 guidance for community, school, and early childhood education settings. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) supports these updates and is currently working to update its website and materials to reflect these changes.

This page offers information and resources to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in non-health care settings. See the Department of Health Services (DHS) Health Care Providers webpage for information that is specific to health care settings.

Employers will find resources and recommendations for protecting employees, clients, and customers. Workers will find resources for staying safe in the workplace, information about financial assistance (including options for health insurance and no- and low-cost health care).

Two Men at Worksite Wearing Masks YSTS


Four Steps to Stay Safe

Effective August 11, 2022, the CDC has released new guidance emphasizing a four-step plan for individuals to protect themselves from COVID-19. These also apply to the workplace. They are:

1. Know your risk.

People of older age, those with disabilities, or anyone with a moderate or severe immunocompromise, or people with other underlying medical conditions (including pregnancy) are at higher risk for severe infection. During times of medium and high COVID-19 Community Levels, people with high risk and their close contacts should consider wearing a well-fitted filtering mask, such as an n-95, or respirator. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), workers with disabilities may be legally entitled to reasonable accommodations that protect them from the risk of contracting COVID-19 if, for example, they cannot be protected through vaccination, cannot be vaccinated, or cannot use face coverings. Employers should consider taking steps to protect these at-risk workers as they would unvaccinated workers, regardless of their vaccination status.

2. Protect yourself.

The best way to protect people from severe COVID-19 infection is to make sure they are fully vaccinated and have received their booster shots. Employers can encourage boosters and vaccinations by offering them at work, by giving time off for vaccinations, or by making policies that require vaccination. Many employee vaccination requirements have been very effective at raising vaccination rates. See the Wisconsin Vaccine Guidance for All Businesses from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) for more ideas on promoting vaccination in the workplace.

3. Take action if exposed.

People who have been exposed to COVID-19 should wear a high quality (n-95 or similar) mask for five days, and then take a screening test to make sure they aren't infected.

4. Take action if you're sick or test positive.

Support your workers by giving them paid time off when they are sick. Offer them a COVID-19 screening test, or encourage them to test on their own. Individuals can order free COVID-19 tests. People who are infected with COVID-19 need to isolate for a minimum of 5 days.

Companies that took steps during the pandemic to implement OSHA’s rules should not be discouraged by these changes. Your organization is more resilient as a result of policies like paid time off for vaccination, vaccination requirements and masking or testing of unvaccinated employees.

Although these steps should be taken by every individual, employers can still take steps to protect the health of their workforce and business by:

  • Keeping people in your workplace up-to-date on your local COVID-19 Community Level. You can find the level for your county here.
  • Making your own masking and handwashing policies that protect vulnerable employees, customers, or clients.
  • Encouraging workers to prioritize their health by staying home when sick.

Resources for employers, and workers

From OSHA on Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.

From the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene’s Occupational Health Division (WisCon):

From the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Preventing and Managing COVID-19 Outbreaks in the Workplace, P-02787 (available in English, Hmong, and Spanish) describes how to keep the workplace safe, and how to work with local and tribal health departments (LTHDs) when an employee has COVID-19. This guidance is meant for non-health care and non-educational settings.


Frequently asked questions

How can my business hold an employer-based vaccination clinic and encourage vaccination among employees?

Vaccination is one of the best ways you can protect your business, employees, and customers from COVID-19 and move operations back to normal. Employers play a critical role in increasing protection among Wisconsin’s workforce and their families, and bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. You are in a unique position to:

  • Facilitate vaccination for employees and their families.
  • Provide employees information about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
  • Establish policies and practices that support workers to get vaccinated.
Hold a worksite vaccination clinic

DHS offers support to Wisconsin employers of any size in holding worksite COVID-19 vaccination clinics. This includes connecting employers with approved vaccinators or providing state resources when necessary and available. Approved vaccinators include pharmacies, health care providers, Local and tribal health departments (LTHD), and commercial vaccinators. Review the DHS Guidance for Wisconsin Employers (PDF) resource to better understand process, implementation, and roles and responsibilities around holding an on-site clinic.

How to request a worksite vaccination clinic:

  • Communicate the support needed with your LTHD.
  • In the event you are not able to connect with your LTHD, you can request support from DHS by filling out the State COVID-19 Resource Matching Survey.
  • DHS will first provide you with a list of approved vaccinators and then explore the use of state resources if needed.
  • If you require state assistance to host a worksite vaccination clinic, please keep the following request timeline in mind:
    • Requests can be accommodated for up to four weeks out but must be submitted at the latest by 8 a.m. on Monday of the week prior to the desired clinic date.
    • Requests are reviewed weekly on Tuesday for the following week. You will receive confirmation of whether or not the request will be supported approximately one week after submitting the request.
  • When vaccination support is provided by the state, the clinic must be open to the public. Reimbursement of services by insurance or others is not permitted.
  • You can also explore existing or new private vaccinator relationships independently from DHS support.
  • Create clear expectations between the employer and vaccinator regarding roles and responsibilities. Guidance is available in Wisconsin Employer-Based COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics, P-02943 (PDF) (also available in Spanish).
Encourage vaccination among your employees

Vaccine education is key to promoting vaccination and addressing misinformation.

  • Provide information and resources. Hang posters or get creative with other methods.
  • Implement policies and programs that support getting vaccinated (for example, allowing paid sick leave, offering a modest incentive), and clearly communicate those programs to your workforce.
  • Create a culture where getting the COVID-19 vaccine is part of being healthy.

Use the suggested resources, policies, and practices in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC) Wisconsin Vaccine Guidance for All Businesses to help your employees gain confidence in getting the vaccine.

What are best practices that workers and visitors to my business or organization can follow?

The four steps for limiting the spread of COVID-19 are:

  • Know your risk.
  • Protect yourself - Stay up-to-date on vaccines and boosters, and consider wearing a mask if your area's COVID-19 Community Level is Medium or High.
  • Take action if exposed. Wear a mask for 5 days, and take a COVID-19 test on day five.
  • Take action if you're sick or test positive. Isolate from others if you have symptoms, and take a COVID-19 test. People who test positive should isolate for at least five full days.

How can I ensure my business is maintaining a safe building environment for workers?

Every business and organization should have a plan to prevent COVID-19 by protecting employees, educating customers, and keeping your building or environment safe and sanitary.

Policies and programs
  • Analyze sick leave policies and consider modifying them to make sure ill workers are not in the workplace. Make sure employees are aware of and understand these policies.
  • Analyze and consider modifying any policies that penalize employees for taking sick leave.
  • Analyze additional flexibilities, which might include giving advances on future sick leave and allowing employees to donate sick leave to each other.
Ventilation

The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread between people indoors, especially in poorly ventilated areas with limited air exchange. Effective ventilation systems can help reduce viral particle concentrations and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in your facility. In most cases, new building ventilation systems are not required. However, ventilation system upgrades or improvements can increase safety by reducing the potential for COVID-19 to spread through the air. Consult experienced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals when considering changes to HVAC systems and equipment. Here are some tips for ensuring your facility is properly ventilated.

Cleaning and disinfecting

According to the CDC, the virus that causes COVID-19 can land on surfaces. It is possible for people to become infected if they touch those surfaces and then touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. In most situations, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low. The most reliable way to prevent infection from surfaces is to regularly wash hands or use hand sanitizer.

For more information, see the:

When can someone recovering from COVID-19 return to work?

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19 should:

  • Stay home and isolate from other people for at least 5 full days. Day 0 is the first day symptoms began or the day that the positive COVID-19 test was taken (if they do not have symptoms).

If the employee has symptoms, they can end isolation after five full days if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms have improved. They should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others in their home and in public for an additional five days after their five-day period of isolation.

See the CDC’s webpage on ending isolation for more information.

Resources for Workers

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has information on COVID-19 and Worker’s Compensation.

University of Wisconsin - Madison's School for Workers

The UW-Madison's School for Workers has a variety of information on COVID-19 and workplace safety, unemployment insurance, health care, and more.

WEDC has a one-page document on Mental Health Guidelines (in English, Hmong, and Spanish) with suggestions and resources to support workers’ mental health during COVID-19. 

Private sector employees

Contact your personnel department to find out what your employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is.

If you believe that your employer’s policy is not protecting workers from COVID-19, you can contact your OSHA regional office by phone or online at the OSHA website. Many complaints are handled informally by OSHA. There are whistleblower provisions designed to protect employees who file a complaint from losing employment or pay, and OSHA has a whistleblower liaison.

Public sector employees

Contact your personnel department to find out what your employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is. If you believe that your employer’s policy is not protecting workers from COVID-19, you can send questions or concerns to the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) Tech mailbox. You can also file a complaint or concern on the DSPS webpage. Click on “file a complaint” on the right side of the page to reach an online form. Make sure to enter your category and profession in the drop-down boxes to route your question, concern, or complaint to the right person.


Facility-wide public health investigation data

View the latest facility-wide public health investigation data by county or healthcare emergency readiness coalition (HERC) region.

 

 

Wisconsin line map with counties

 


Coping tips and workers for families

Altered family routines. New financial pressures. Worry for yourself and your loved ones. Facing uncertainty at work, interrupted employment, or the increased risks that come with working an essential job during a pandemic. There is no doubt that COVID-19 is creating strain for people throughout Wisconsin. Adapting to these changes can be stressful for you and your family. But with self-care, the support of your loved ones, and a few healthy coping strategies, you can manage and reduce the pressure you may feel at work or at home.

Logo for Resilient Wisconsin: Connected. Stronger. Thriving.

Finding healthy ways to cope with challenges is more important than ever. Resilient Wisconsin offers strategies for practicing self-care, maintaining social connections, and reducing stress and anxiety.

Well-Being in the Workplace: Support and Resources for Coping with COVID-19 Stress

For workers: English | Spanish | Hmong
For employers: English| Spanish | Hmong

Try these five strategies

  • Know it’s okay: It’s normal to feel upset and afraid when life changes in dramatic ways. Don’t judge your actions and emotions during times of stress too harshly.
  • Stick to a routine: Create a schedule for working, relaxing, physical activity, and connecting with loved ones that you and your family can rely on.
  • Prioritize self-care: Getting adequate rest and exercise, eating healthy foods, and maintaining your social connections can help you take better care of yourself and others.
  • Live with purpose: Disruptions in your work and home life can leave you floundering. Finding new ways to stay active and make contributions in your life and community can help reduce anxiety.
  • Ask for the help you need: Addressing your own stress and anxiety is critical. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from loved ones, turn to a trusted advisor, or seek the support of a mental or behavioral health professional.
 

Resources to help you manage stress and adapt to change

 Essential workers and their families

For those working essential jobs in government and health care, at grocery stores, community utilities, and in other vital workplaces, staying safer at home during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t an option. Balancing your obligations as an employee with the natural concerns you may feel for your own health, financial well-being, and the safety of your loved ones isn’t easy. Find tips for managing risk, reducing stress and taking care of yourself and others while serving your community.

 People facing interrupted employment

From coast to coast and across a wide variety of industries, workers have found themselves facing interrupted employment and job loss. Whether you’ve been laid off or temporarily furloughed, face lowered wages, or find that you cannot work due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions or concerns, the stress you may feel could compromise your physical and mental health. Invest in self-care techniques and tools for managing and reducing stress that can help you care for yourself and the people you care for, both now and when you return to work.

Apply for benefits

Wisconsin has many programs that can help you and your family.

 People working from home

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance gets harder when work and life happen in the same place. New challenges like altered work schedules and routines, mastering new technology, or trying to collaborate with colleagues at a distance can add to your stress. The tools and tips below can help you build the resilience you need to thrive, whether you’re working in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, learning to share your working and living space with others, or are striving to meet your daily obligations as an employee while taking on new child care and homeschooling responsibilities.

 Families with children at home

No matter their age, children can react strongly during emergencies and periods of stress. Separation from family and friends, changes to their routines at home and at school, and the anxiety children sense in the adults around them can all have a negative impact on their physical, emotional and mental health. When parents and caregivers deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they provide the best support for their children. Share the facts in a way they’ll understand, and make sure they know they’re safe and that it’s okay to feel upset or afraid.

Last Revised: August 18, 2022

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