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Citing increase of COVID cases at workplaces, Cayuga officials call for businesses to take proactive safety measures

On Friday two prominent leaders in Cayuga County issued a joint-statement on the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic, as well as the increased prevalence of people becoming exposed or infected at work.

“Not only are we seeing an increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, but we have seen a disturbing increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” Public Health Director Kathleen Cuddy and Cayuga Economic Development Agency Executive Director Tracy Verrier said in a joint-release.

The two say that in recent months worksites have been the source of many exposures and clusters. A cluster is defined as two or more linked cases not living in the same household.

“Cayuga County is in a much different situation than we were nine months ago when New York Pause was initiated,” they continued. “Today, we face a much different reality. New York reopened, Cayuga County businesses and schools have been operational at the same time cases continue to rise.”

They say that despite working to control and limit the number of infections, increased community spread is impacting many worksites.

“As we move forward and work to keep businesses open in Cayuga County, CCHD and the Cayuga County Economic Development Agency would like to urge local businesses to take proactive steps, rather than being reactive, when it comes to COVID-19 exposures in the workplace.

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Among the steps they encouraged were:

– Ensure staff stay home when feeling sick. Employees should not be coming to work with any symptom of COVID-19. Even mild illness or symptoms should be taken seriously.

– Keep at least six feet apart from non-household members at work. If working within six feet of others is required, facemasks should be worn at all times.

– Masks should only come off when working alone. They should also be washed regularly.

– Do not allow employees to gather or eat together. Breakrooms, conference rooms, and work luncheons have contributed to exposure and positive tests, according to Cuddy.

– Reduce the number of staff in the workplace at any given time as much as possible. Whether that means staggering shifts or having people work in smaller groups off- and on-site, steps should be taken to limit interactions.

– Allow those who are comfortable and capable of working from home to do so.

“These steps are not always easy or convenient, but are preferable to managing a preventable outbreak or mass quarantine,” they added in the statement. “Furthermore, if trends don’t improve it is likely that our community will be forced to institute additional restrictions. If and when it comes to that point, employers will be more prepared for these restrictions if they are starting to implement these measures voluntarily now. Better yet, voluntary implementation may help to avoid mandatory restrictions altogether. Proactive measures like these are how each individual business can do its part to keep the economy open.”