Comprehensive HOPE Member Coronavirus-19 Information w/ Links to Resources

Coronavirus Disease 2019

HOPE Members: Listed here is everything we know so far about Coronavirus-19. From facts about the virus and the COVID-19 vaccine, tips to stay safe, Workplace rights, and a host of links to local, state, national, and international resources on the bottom, this article has it all. Additionally, your HOPE Member Covid-19 Form can be accessed here to highlight both pertinent concerns and plausible solutions to work towards with City of Houston Leadership.

Risk: The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States. The disease is of concern because it is a novel virus – a new strain of virus infecting people – and it has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and exhibits sustained person-to-person spread, which are two of the three criteria of a pandemic. As the virus exhibits more cases of community spread, or cases for which the source of infection is unknown, COVID19 will meet all three characteristics. Although the general public health risk from COVID-19 is high, individual risk currently varies, depending on exposure. For the general American public, the immediate health risk is considered low. However, certain people will have an increased risk of infection, for example, health care workers caring for patients with the disease and other close contacts of them.

Symptoms: COVID-19 symptoms have occurred between two and 14 days of infection and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The severity of symptoms ranges widely, from mild – milder than the flu – to severe illness, including death. Older adults and those with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus. Some infected individuals exhibit no symptoms.

  • Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks of illness, some experience post-COVID conditions that can last months, commonly called long-haul symptoms.

Spread: COVID-19 is spread between people who are in close (within 6 feet) contact with one another, mainly by respiratory transmission – via droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is possible that spread can occur from surfaces infected with the virus, but this is not the main way the virus spreads. People are thought to be most contagious when they show the greatest symptoms, although some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic, including the Delta Variant.

Prevention: In areas with substantial and high transmission (including Harris County), CDC recommends that everyone (including fully vaccinated individuals) wear a mask in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and protect others.

Getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Unvaccinated people should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. With the Delta variant, this is more urgent than ever. CDC has updated guidance for fully vaccinated people based on new evidence on the Delta variant.

What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and key to getting our lives closer to normal.  
  • Getting vaccinated prevents serious illness, hospitalization, and death; it also helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. 
  • 99.5% of Texans who died from COVID-19 from February 8 to July 14, 2021, were unvaccinated.  
  • Less than 1% of fully vaccinated Houstonians who got tested were positive for COVID-19.
  • Vaccines are cleared for Emergency Use Authorization after a rigorous review by FDA based on scientific evidence about safety and effectiveness gathered through large clinical trials. 
  • People of diverse races and ethnicities tested the vaccine in large clinical trials to prove they are safe and highly effective. 
  • None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 so a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19. 
  • The vaccines do not alter DNA.  
  • COVID-19 vaccines were developed using science that has been around for decades. 
  • Side effects may include fatigue, headache, fever, chills, nausea, muscle pain, and joint pain. These side effects show that the vaccine is working and resolve within a day or two. 
  • Get vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19. 
  • CDC data shows no safety concerns related to getting vaccinated during pregnancy 

Continuing to avoid being exposed to the virus by taking everyday preventive actions:

  • Get your COVID-!9 vaccine as soon as possible.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Facemasks: To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.

  • If you are not fully vaccinated and aged 2 or older, you should wear a mask in indoor public places.
  • In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.
    • In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
  • People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may NOT be protected even if they are fully vaccinated. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.

Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas of a conveyance (like on open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top deck of a bus).

-- Remember; Wearing a mask does not raise the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the air you breathe --

Cloth masks and surgical masks do not provide an airtight fit across the face. The CO2 escapes into the air through the mask when you breathe out or talk. CO2 molecules are small enough to easily pass through mask material. In contrast, the respiratory droplets that carry the virus that causes COVID-19 are much larger than CO2, so they cannot pass as easily through a properly designed and properly worn mask.

Treatment: People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately. People with the disease should receive supportive care to help relieve their symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

Workplace Policies to Limit Spread: CDC recommends employers actively encourage sick employees to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever or other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of medicines. Employees who come to work sick or become sick at work should be sent home immediately. Employers should extend greater flexibility in sick leave policies, such as not requiring a doctor’s note for acute respiratory illness, because health care provider offices may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.

Employers should promote cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene among employees and provide adequate supplies in multiple locations and in conference rooms. Employers should perform routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time. Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. If an employee is confirmed to have a COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

Workers’ Rights and Employers’ Responsibilities

Leave Policies: - Employees with COVID-19 or who are caring for a family member with the disease are entitled to job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The law is less clear regarding employees who are not ill themselves but are quarantined. No employment protection exists for individuals subject to mandatory quarantine. However, arguments have been made that quarantines may be considered a serious health condition requiring inpatient medical care, thus qualifying for FMLA. Employees covered by collective bargaining agreements are likely protected by “just cause” dismissal provisions in contracts, as courts and arbitrators would be unlikely to consider missing work due to mandatory quarantine to be a reasonable cause for dismissal.

OSHA Standards: - There is no specific Occupational Safety and Health Act standard covering COVID-19, and OSHA only covers public sector workers in 29 states and territories (Alaska, Ariz., Calif., Conn., Hawaii, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., Maine, Mass., Md., Mich., Minn., N.J., N.Y., Nev., N.M., N.C., Ore., P.R., S.C., Tenn., Utah, Vt., Va., Wash., Wyo. and V.I.). All private-sector workers are covered, either by federal OSHA or through an OSHA state plan.

For workers who are covered by OSHA, other standards and directives may apply to COVID-19 risks. The Personal Protective Equipment standards require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection and require employers to implement a comprehensive program that meets the standard. The General Duty Clause requires employers to furnish a place of employment “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” OSHA further prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for raising concerns about safety and health conditions.

Updates: U.S. public health authorities are monitoring the situation closely, and the Centers for Disease Control is coordinating efforts with the World Health Organization and other global partners. Information about the disease is rapidly changing so it is critical to monitor changes frequently. You can monitor new content by going to the CDC’s What’s New link and you can also keep up with CDC updates on Coronavirus Disease 2019 by signing up for email updates, syndicating available content, and subscribing to Coronavirus Disease 2019 RSS Feed.