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Workplace worries: Businesses, employers prepare for potential COVID-19 outbreaks

As cases of the Delta variant pop up in Kent County, health officials hope that workers and their employers will work to keep everyone safe.

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — First, employers had to lure employees back into the work space. And now, they have to prepare for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Economics professor Paul Isley says because workers have a certain perception of how bad the coronavirus pandemic is based on numbers that explain cases across the country, West Michiganders could be hesitant to get back to a normal work life despite cases here remaining lower than the national average.

"When people go back to work we're going to have some of that (outbreak of cases), and the more you hear it, the more fearful people get," explains Professor Isley. "So businesses have to say, 'okay, what do we do? Do we do this differently?' We're starting to get conflicting guidance from different organizations about how we should protect our employees, and the uncertainty results in businesses saying, hey wait a minute, maybe we need to slow down how fast we're ramping up now."

The constant back and forth on plans are costing businesses a lot of money. Plus, economists say that consumer confidence is starting to show strains under the increasing potential virus threat – and that uncertainty has the power to slow the economy.

"In June, we had near record-level high in consumer confidence. But the preliminary data that we started to get in July shows that has dropped," Isley says.

As cases of the Delta variant start to pop up in Kent County, the Kent County Health Department reminds workers that it's important to have an idea of who has worked closely with who, especially in settings such as manufacturing where they have seen a lot of transmission. And if an outbreak occurs in any workplace, it should be reported to the health department.

If someone is exposed to a COVID-19 outbreak in the work place, health officials recommend the following:

As per current guidance from the CDC, fully vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine, but you should monitor for symptoms for 14 days following exposure. This includes the Delta variant at this time.

For unvaccinated individuals exposed to COVID-19, MDHHS and the Kent County Health Department recommend a full quarantine for 14 days.

To report a workplace outbreak or if a workplace is not following proper guidance to keep employees safe, they can be reported to MIOSHA on this COVID hotline at 855-723-3219.

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