Tech companies have come up with a list of recommendations for what will need to be done to safely reopen the economy to avoid both the risk of spreading the pandemic and the risk of a "patchwork" response to the reopening.
The list is a long one and suggests a difficult road ahead, as well as current mixed signals from government agencies.
Global tech association ITI outlined its guidance for reopening the workplace in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading up the White House's coronavirus task force. ITI members run the gamut from Nielsen to Qualcomm, Facebook and Amazon to Verizon, Google, HP and Intel.
The President has pronounced that the country is moving from a virus response phase to an economic recovery phase.
ITI said there should be clear and consistent guidance and a data-driven approach to that reopening if the public is to feel safe about returning to that reopened economy. What there should not be, it said, is a "patchwork of federal, state, and local policies that will cause needless, time-consuming, and resource-draining confusion that will delay our national economic recovery."
Currently the President has said he is leaving it up to the states to make the decisions about reopening, though encouraging them to so as quickly as possible.
ITI also noted the conflicting guidelines from more than half a dozen federal agencies.
“Many in the technology sector will eventually return to their workplaces," said ITI President Jason Oxman. "When the time comes to safely do so, unified federal guidance will expedite the transition to the next phase." Oxman did not say when ITI thought that time would come.
Here are some of the things ITI said should come before such a coordinated reboot:
"Assessing readiness: Workplace readiness guidance that includes a checklist of considerations for employers to ensure employee and consumer confidence while mitigating transmission of the virus.
"COVID-19 screening: General guidance on which screening methods, techniques, and technologies can be reliably used in particular work environments to detect possible COVID-19 illness would encourage the widest possible deployment of employer-based screening.
"COVID-19 testing: Flexible testing guidance to give employers the ability to adopt testing measures based on the safety needs of their workforce. As testing capacity increases, guidance should encourage widespread testing, including of those who are asymptomatic, and also encourage employer-administered testing.
"Physical changes to office environments to enable social distancing: Space planning guidance, such as how to reconfigure cubical or open workspace environments, and how to appropriately mitigate transmission risk in shared spaces such as elevators, meeting rooms, kitchens, break rooms, cafeterias, locker rooms, and restrooms.
"Alternative mitigation strategies where social distancing is infeasible: Alternative mitigation guidance where workspaces do not lend themselves to retrofitting or job functions prevent social distancing.
"Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or face coverings: Guidance on who is responsible for providing PPE or face coverings, whether an employer may require employees to provide their own face coverings in an environment that does not require PPE, and whether employers are obligated to verify employee-provided face coverings conform with CDC guidelines.
"High risk or vulnerable employees: Risk profiling guidance to identify high risk or vulnerable employees occur; identify related privacy obligations that arise; describe what responsibilities, accommodations, or protocols particularly susceptible employees trigger; and how to encourage these individuals to appropriately protect themselves.
"Sanitation and disinfectant protocols: Guidance on sanitation and disinfectant protocols after a confirmed COVID-19 exposure occurs.
"In-person gathering restrictions: Clear guidance on ongoing restrictions for in-person gatherings for the benefit of employers, employees, and attendees alike.
"Contact tracing: Federal guidance to encourage all levels of government to coalesce around one set of protocols for the timely collection, processing, and sharing of data among private entities and federal, state, and local public health agencies to enable necessary interoperability and data sharing among bordering states and closely situated localities. Guidance should include what records employers should maintain to support contact tracing efforts; how, when, and with whom those records should be shared; how and when to notify employees of a potential exposure; and how to properly address privacy risks or obligations that arise from this activity.
"Compliance: Guidance on how to best encourage and ensure compliance with public-health driven guidelines by employees and customers.
"Immigration guidance: Guidance that provides immediate but temporary government flexibility regarding immigration status, work authorization, and compliance deadlines where overstays are unavoidable due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
"Balancing health and safety and COVID-19 related family circumstances: Employee support guidance on how to balance workplace re-openings, health and safety concerns, and COVID-19 family circumstances."
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