How to Defend a Claim of Workplace COVID-19 Exposure.
As states begin to relax ‘safer at home’ orders and open up certain sectors of the economy, the number of lawsuits related to COVID-19 are increasing rapidly. Legal actions have been wide ranging. Businesses have filed suit against state or local jurisdictions. Employees have filed suit against employers. Families of virus victims have filed suit against employers as well.
As the outbreak of the virus began, the term ‘flatten the curve’ became the mantra. Along with that mantra came the guidance to support the desired outcome that included hand washing, social distancing, and the use of face mask. Similarly, employers can ‘flatten the curve’ or reduce the risk of liability by following similar business guidance related to COVID-19.
As many of the states entered phase 1, guidance was provided to employers related to worker and workplace safety. In many parts of the country, the marina industry was considered essential business and, as a result, may have already implemented those safety protocols. Every business should, by now, have developed and implemented a written Pandemic Response Plan. The plan should detail topics such as facility access, PPE requirements, social distancing, sanitation procedures, employee medical screening procedures, and employee training. Employees should have been trained on the details of the virus (symptoms, hygiene, and control measures), new procedures, and new requirements within the workplace. The employee training should be documented. Other documentation may include sanitation schedules, corrective actions, or other changes implemented.
On May 19, Federal OSHA released an updated memo for Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO). For many business owners or managers, the CSHO is often referred to as the OSHA investigator and the document served to provide the CSHO guidance when responding to COVID-19 cases. The updated memo provided an interesting insight. Within the document, OSHA acknowledged “the difficulty of determining work-relatedness” of COVID-19 cases. In addition, the document stated, “Employers, especially small employers, should not be expected to undertake extensive medical inquiries”. The memo went on to list the steps employers should take related to investigating a COVID-19 case in the workplace and defined when COVID-19 cases may or may not be work related.
The Pandemic Response Plan will detail how to manage the employee with a confirmed case, presumptive case, or COVID-19 symptoms. The May 19 memo also stated employers, upon learning of a confirmed case of COVID-19, should take a few keys steps. Assuming the employee is not at the workplace, a phone call may be required. The employer should “ask the employee how they believe they contracted COVID-19”, “discuss work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness”, and “review the employee’s work environment for potential exposure”. The employer should identify employees that meet the 6/15/48 criteria meaning employees that have been within 6 feet of the confirmed case for 15 minutes duration in the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms. Completing this minimal investigation is key to not only preventing an outbreak but to demonstrate ‘good faith’ in terms of the employer response.
Federal OSHA provided guidance for three scenarios where COVID-19 illness is most likely work related. Even with the guidance, making a final determination may be both challenging and subjective. COVID-19 illness is most likely work related when multiple employees develop the illness with no alternate explanation. The illness is most likely work related when the virus is contracted shortly after lengthy contact with a customer or coworker with a confirmed case without an alternate explanation. The illness is also most likely work related when the employee has close and frequent exposure to the general public in a locality with community transmission without an alternate explanation.
Discovering the alternate explanation may be achieved by following the investigative guidance issued by OSHA. When multiple coworkers develop the virus, were those employees congregating outside of the workplace? For the employee with exposure to the general public, was the employee exposed by a relative or friend? The possibility of a person being asymptomatic also creates challenges when determining workplace exposure.
So what happens when an employee claims COVID exposure in the workplace? As OSHA stated, confirming workplace exposure may be challenging and the employee would need to claim how and when the exposure occurred. Assuming the employer has followed the previous outlined steps and developed a Pandemic Response Plan, implemented plan protocols, trained staff, prohibited sick employees from entering the facility, and conducted the investigation upon learning of the confirmed case the employer has completed a ‘good faith’ effort to keep employees safe. When protocols are in place and followed consistently, the risk of workplace exposure is low. As a result, the employee claim may be difficult to substantiate.
What about a customer claiming COVID-19 exposure while visiting a business? Such a claim may be difficult for a customer to substantiate. While the OSHA guidance would not apply to a customer, the logic of an ‘alternate explanation’ may certainly apply. If a customer is visiting a business such as a marina, one could certainly argue that perhaps the client visited the grocery store, gas station, or local restaurant for take-out food. At the same time, with the Pandemic Response Plan in place and no evidence of COVID-19 illness in the workplace, it may be further support the case for an alternative explanation.
As stated in the opening, the number of COVID related lawsuits is rising rapidly. At the end of the day, it will be difficult for the employer to stop the initiation of legal action. However, following all applicable regulations and guidance will be most helpful to demonstrate the ‘good faith’ effort of the business. The documentation related to business response, including the Pandemic Response Plan, employee training, medical screening, and confirmed case investigation will be a key part of defending the business from such claims.
We will continue to monitor further developments and provide updates, so you should ensure you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ alert system to gather the most up-to-date information.If you have questions, please contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any attorney in our Labor Relations Practice Group.
If you have questions, please contact Robert Smith (757) 589-5391 or Travis Vance (704) 778-4163.
FP BEYOND THE CURVE: Post-Pandemic Back-To-Business FAQs For Employers
Updated: MAY 21, 2020
As we look toward life after the worst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has passed, business recovery will be paramount. This includes assessing business operations, bringing employees back to work, and ensuring a safe workplace. Even if these steps are further in the future for some employers than others, the time to begin thinking about these issues is now, because with these next steps comes a whole new set of labor and employment challenges.
The same workplace law firm that helped navigate you through the COVID-19 crisis is here to assist your business as you plan to get back to full strength. The FP Post-Pandemic Strategy group, comprised of a cross-disciplinary group of Fisher Phillips workplace attorneys, has assembled the following comprehensive set of FAQs that will be continually updated throughout the recovery period. It will soon be time to get back to work – and we’re here to help.
Note: If you are still dealing with issues related to the front side of the COVID-19 curve, we recommend you review our Comprehensive And Updated FAQs For Employers On The COVID-19 Coronavirus, containing a comprehensive review of the many issues you may still continue to face.
OSHA Ramps Up Employers’ COVID-19 Recordkeeping Obligations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration just issued new guidance for enforcing its COVID-19 recordkeeping requirements, soon requiring covered employers to make an increased effort to determine whether they need to record and report coronavirus cases in the workplace. This new standard, which will become effective on May 26, reverses course from an agency policy released a few weeks ago that had given OSHA enforcement discretion when it came to the recordkeeping obligations for employers not in the healthcare, correction center, and emergency responder industries. What do employers need to know about this new standard?
The Basics: When Does Your Recordkeeping Obligation Kick In?
Before summarizing the new standard, it’s important to understand employers’ obligations in this area. OSHA recordkeeping requirements mandate covered employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log. According to the agency, COVID-19 cases must be recorded if:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19;
- The case is work-related (as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5); and
- The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria as outlined by OSHA: if it results in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond “first aid,” or loss of consciousness (OSHA provides a specific and complete definition of “first aid” in 29 CFR § 1904.7(b)(5)(ii)).
Employers Must Make an Effort To Determine Work-Relatedness Of COVID-19
In its May 19 announcement, OSHA pointed to the fact that transmission of the virus and preventing infection are now better understood, and workers are returning to work. For these reasons, the agency is now taking the position that employers in all industries should determine whether employee COVID-19 illnesses are work-related and thus recordable. Thus, as of May 26, OSHA will be enforcing the recordkeeping requirements for employee COVID-19 illnesses for all employers, and not just for those in high-risk industries.
The agency has provided some leeway, however. It indicated that it understands that certain small employers lack access to employees’ medical information. For this reason, it said it will not aggressively enforce the requirement against those employers.
Further, OSHA continues to recognize the difficulty in determining work-relatedness and will assess employers’ efforts in making work-related determinations. The guidance directs agency Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) to consider a variety of factors when determining whether an employer has complied with the obligation to make a reasonable determination of work-relatedness. These factors include:
- The reasonableness of the employer’s investigation into work-relatedness. For most employers learning of an employee’s COVID-19 illness, it is sufficient to (1) ask the employee how they believe they contracted the COVID-19 illness, (2) while respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee their work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness, and (3) review the employee’s work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure.
- The evidence available to the employer. CSHOs will consider the information reasonably available to the employer at the time it made its work-relatedness determination.
- The evidence that COVID-19 was contracted at work. The guidance highlights that certain types of evidence weigh in favor of or against work-relatedness. For example, when there is no alternative explanation, a case is likely work related:
- When several cases develop among workers who work closely together;
- If it is contracted after lengthy, close exposure to customer or coworker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19; or
- If an employee’s job duties include having frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with widespread transmission.
If an employer makes a reasonable and good faith inquiry but cannot determine whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a role in the confirmed case of COVID-19, the agency says that the employer does not need to record the illness.
What Should You Do?
This new guidance highlights the importance of implementing preventive measures and measures for contact tracing as employees return to the workplace. You should continue to focus on minimizing the risk of transmission in the workplace and develop a procedure to investigate the circumstances surrounding employees who test positive for COVID-19. You should also be mindful of respecting employee privacy during your investigation into the work-relatedness of a confirmed case of COVID-19.
As you begin the process of reopening, you should familiarize yourself with our alert: 5 Steps To Reopen Your Workplace, According To CDC’s Latest Guidance. You should also keep handy our 4-Step Plan For Handling Confirmed COVID-19 Cases When Your Business Reopens in the event you learn of a positive case at your workplace. For a more thorough analysis of the many issues you may encounter from a labor and employment perspective, we recommend you review our FP BEYOND THE CURVE: Post-Pandemic Back-To-Business FAQs For Employers and our FP Resource Center For Employers.
Fisher Phillips will continue to monitor the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation and provide updates as appropriate. Make sure you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ Alert System to get the most up-to-date information. For further information, contact your Fisher Phillips attorney, or any member of our Post-Pandemic Strategy Group Roster.
This Legal Alert provides an overview of a specific developing situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.
Labor Board Temporarily Changes Notice Posting Requirement Due To Pandemic
The National Labor Relations Board usually requires employers to post on their premises notices of findings made against it by the Board within 14 days. However, the NLRB has temporarily modified this standard rule in order to account for the changing environment created by COVID-19. Specifically, the Board recently decided that, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, employers whose facilities are currently closed but have been ordered to post a notice of violations of federal labor law must wait to do so until their offices reopen.
Danbury Ambulance Service, Inc., an ambulatory company in Danbury, Connecticut, entered into an informal settlement agreement with the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU to resolve two unfair labor practice charges filed by the union. Pursuant to the terms of that settlement agreement, Danbury agreed to post a notice of its violation of its employees’ rights for 60 days, meet with the union regarding the termination of an employee, and provide certain information to the union in response to an information request related to the employee’s termination.
Danbury failed to post the required notice, meet with the Union to discuss the employee’s termination, or provide the requested information. As a result, the Board entered a finding that Danbury engaged in the unfair labor practices, ordered that it cease and desist from the conduct alleged, and ordered that it post the remedial notice as it had previously agreed to do.
Board Announcement In Light Of COVID-19
In ordering that Danbury post notice of its violations of federal labor law, the Board took the opportunity to announce and implement a temporary change to its standard notice-posting rule. While employers are typically required to post notices within 14 days of receipt of an order, the Board delayed the timing aspect of this requirement for those employers whose facilities are currently closed. The Board’s temporary rule modification recognizes that employers that are temporarily closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic may not be able to comply with such an order.
More importantly, the Board also recognized that even if an employer could comply with posting the notice within the required timeframe, the purpose of the notice-posting would not be achieved if employees are not onsite to read the notice. Accordingly, the Board’s temporary rule delays the posting of any notice by employers that are currently closed (or operating at minimal staffing) until 14 days after the employer has reopened for business with a substantial complement of its workforce present in the workplace. The Board did not set a date for when this temporary change would expire but stated that it would reinstate the prior language of the rule when conditions warrant.
What Should Employers Do?
If you are facing the prospect of posting a Board Notice during this pandemic, be aware that you will not be credited with the time period you post the Notice if your facility is closed. The recommended solution would be to wait until your workplace is operational before posting.
This also applies to employers who normally communicate with their employees through email. For this reason, any email communications you plan to send as a result of a Board action should also be delayed until employees have returned to the workplace.
We will continue to monitor further developments and provide updates, so you should ensure you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ alert system to gather the most up-to-date information. If you have questions, please contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any attorney in our Labor Relations Practice Group.
This Legal Alert provides an overview of a specific memorandum. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.
California Now Presumes Most Employees With COVID-19 Can Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits
California Governor Gavin Newsom just enacted sweeping changes to the state’s workers’ compensation standards, providing that a broad swath of California workers who contract COVID-19 are presumed to have a workplace injury covered by the workers’ compensation system. While as many as eight other states have recently established rebuttable presumptions that certain workers with COVID-19 have valid workers’ compensation claims unless the employer can prove the employee contracted the virus outside of work, California took a giant step further. This Executive Order far outpaces any other state efforts in this regard in terms of both scope and coverage. What do employers need to know about this radical change and what can you do to both protect your workers and minimize your liability?
What Has Changed?
Under the existing California workers’ compensation system, employees need to present some medical evidence that their illness or injury was related to work in order to qualify for benefits. To meet that important threshold, they need to establish some reasonable factual basis for asserting that the workplace caused their illness or injury.
However, the Executive Order turns that analysis on its head. Instead, if any “covered worker” contracts COVID-19, it would be automatically “presumed” to be work-related without the employee having to provide any further proof. Although this presumption is rebuttable – meaning you can controvert this position with other evidence – it is likely to be a high burden for employers to meet. With a communicable disease that can be contracted in a number of ways (many of which are outside your control), how do you prove that COVID-19 was contracted outside the workplace? It’s a difficult task, meaning most claims are likely now going to be covered by workers’ compensation.
The presumption applies to any worker who reported to work outside of the home at the direction of their employer and received a positive test or physician (licensed by the California Medical Board) diagnosis for COVID-19 within 14 days of the worker’s last day working outside of the home. If the claim is based on a physician’s diagnosis, it would require a subsequent positive test within 30 days to continue the claim. This coverage is far broader than similar presumptions established by other states, which have generally been limited to a narrow scope of front-line and other essential workers.
The Executive Order reduces the timeframe for insurers to make a compensability decision from the general 90 days to 30 days. However, the order permits denials after this period based on new information. This shortened timeframe will likely result in cost pressures to the system as a whole, and could result in delays for decisions on other non-COVID-19 related workers’ compensation claims as insurers prioritize their workload.
The Executive Order also provides that compensation shall include all workers’ compensation benefits, including full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits, which are generally available to injured workers under the current system. Injured workers are only eligible for temporary disability (TD) benefits after they use all of their state and federal sick leave benefits. In addition, the Executive Order requires TD recertification every 15 days (rather than the general rule of every 45 days). Death benefits are available but will not be paid when there are no dependents.
An obvious concern for employers is what this change will mean in terms of overall costs to California’s workers’ compensation system. The difficulty in being able to successfully challenge whether an employee contracted COVID-19 in the workplace or elsewhere means that this change essentially shifts much of the pandemic costs to the workers’ compensation system. It’s hard to see how that will not result in a massive increase in costs to that system, and thereby, California employers.
The California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Ratings Bureau (WCIRB) recently completed a cost evaluation that estimated such a presumption could cost between $2.2 billion and $33.6 billion – and that was if the presumption were only limited to front-line and other essential workers. Now that the finalized order goes much further, the estimated costs could skyrocket from those initial figures.
California employers have significant concerns about the cost implications this Executive Order will have on the workers’ compensation system. There is little doubt that these changes will result in additional costs to the system that will be passed through to all employers via increased premiums. However, perhaps of more importance are the more broad impacts to California’s workers’ compensation system as a whole. There have been some rumors that carriers may simply pull out of California and do business elsewhere – this could have dramatic effects on the system and California employers’ ability to find coverage.
In addition, there could be legal challenges to the Governor’s Executive Order, particularly regarding his ability to establish a workers’ compensation presumption by executive fiat, rather than through a legislative change. A judge in Illinois recently granted a temporary restraining order, blocking enforcement of a similar workers’ compensation presumption adopted on an emergency basis by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. That litigation was brought by a coalition of retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses. It seems likely that similar challenges could by mounted to California’s new rule, but it remains to be seen how that will play out. We’ll keep you updated on any legal challenges on this front.
What Should Employers Do?
California employers should take heed of this significant development. Above all, the establishment of a presumption for COVID-19 contractions underscores the need for you to closely follow CDC and OSHA guidance for minimizing or preventing exposures in the workplace. This development is even more reason for California employers to redouble those efforts in the hopes of preventing any contraction.
The shortened timeframes and other procedural changes to how COVID-19 claims will be handled also require immediate attention by California employers. You should consult closely with you carriers and employment counsel regarding these new timeframes and how to best manage claims handling starting immediately.
The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) announced that additional guidance will be forthcoming in the coming days. Therefore, you should pay close attention to these additional details as they become available. We’ll keep you posted as soon as more details and guidance become available.
Fisher Phillips will continue to monitor the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation and provide updates as appropriate. Make sure you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ Alert System to get the most up-to-date information. For further information, contact your Fisher Phillips attorney, any attorney in our California offices, or any member of our Post-Pandemic Strategy Group Roster. You can also review our FP BEYOND THE CURVE: Post-Pandemic Back-To-Business FAQs For Employers and our FP Resource Center For Employers.
This Legal Alert provides an overview of a developing situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.
6 Factors Employers Must Consider When Taking Employees’ Temperatures
Employers may be required to take the temperatures of employees when businesses begin to reopen in the coming days and weeks following the expiration of many states’ stay-at-home orders. Screening for fevers is a task never previously undertaken by many companies. Given that many states will require or highly recommend this practice, now is the time for to consider what precautions and procedures to undertake to implement this safety measure.
You should consider these six issues when contemplating whether to take temperatures at your workplace:
- Do You Have To Do It?
Unless required by a local or state order, taking temperatures is not required in most workplaces. Doing so will require extensive planning, training, and could even be quite expensive. In addition, many individuals infected with COVID-19 won't exhibit any symptoms, and thus temperature screening likely won’t prevent all workers who can transmit the disease from entering your worksite.
Although the CDC recommends screening employees for fevers of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, keep in mind some states make recommend different thresholds. If you decide to screen your employees, also plan to check the temperatures of guests, clients, vendors, and contractors to ensure a safe work environment.
- Training And Personal Protective Equipment For Those Taking Temperatures
The safety of all employees is paramount, but those administering temperature screenings will be especially vulnerable to hazards. If you require employees to be within six feet of any individual who may have COVID-19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that they wear personal protective equipment (PPE) consisting of some combination of gloves, a gown, a face mask, and/or a face shield or goggles.
The screening employees should also be trained on the required PPE under OSHA’s PPE standard. You should also prepare a job hazard assessment and PPE certification related to the screening. To the extent that screeners may also be exposed to bloodborne pathogens (BBP), such as mucous or saliva, you should ensure they are properly trained under OSHA’s BBP standard – which requires employers to prepare an exposure control plan.
Keep in mind that, where not required by a local or state order, the CDC allows employers to screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever, without ever touching or interacting with them. You can do so by standing more than six feet away and asking the employee to confirm they don’t have a temperature and making a visual inspection of the employee (e.g., looking for flushed cheeks or fatigue). Only under this method could the employee screener not be required to wear PPE.
- Maintaining Social Distancing
Not only should screening employees be protected, safety measures should also be taken for workers waiting in line to be screened. This includes ensuring employees stand six feet or more from each other while they wait to have their temperature taken.
You may have to screen 50 or more employees prior to the beginning of each shift. This likely will cause delays and create disruption to normal production activities. Be prepared to create outdoor waiting areas (e.g. tents and other temporary structures) where employees must be in lengthy lines prior to entering the facility. Employee privacy, especially where screening takes place and results are announced, should be accounted for during this time.
- Privacy Concerns
Employee privacy concerns will be prevalent during the employee screening process. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has cautioned that employers can ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including taking their temperatures, provided that all biomedical information is maintained as a confidential medical record, and separate from the employee’s personnel file. Some states, such as California, may require employers to provide a notice to all employees prior to screening them for biomedical data.
For many businesses, maintaining employee privacy can be challenging as you may not have the experience or knowledge to ensure compliance. To mitigate these issues, and if not required by a governmental order, avoid collecting or storing an employee’s biomedical information to the extent possible. Instead, use an instantaneous-reading thermometer and show the employee their temperature simultaneously with the screening.
- Wage Issues
Keep in mind that employees may claim that their time waiting in line or being screened for a fever before their shift is compensable and thus they should be paid for it. Although no case law or Department of Labor guidance on point currently exists on this topic, we recommend that you err on the side of paying employees throughout the screening process. This also requires you to implement a system to have employees “clock in” when they get in line for screening and to document their time.
What Should Employers Do?
As you begin the process of reopening, you should also familiarize yourself with our alert: 5 Steps To Reopen Your Workplace, According To CDC’s Latest Guidance. You should also keep handy our 4-Step Plan For Handling Confirmed COVID-19 Cases When Your Business Reopens in the event you learn of a positive case at your workplace. For a more thorough analysis of the many issues you may encounter from a labor and employment perspective, we recommend you review our FP BEYOND THE CURVE: Post-Pandemic Back-To-Business FAQs For Employers and our FP Resource Center For Employers.
Fisher Phillips will continue to monitor the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation and provide updates as appropriate. Make sure you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ Alert System to get the most up-to-date information. For further information, contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any member of our Post-Pandemic Strategy Group Roster.
This Legal Alert provides an overview of a specific developing situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.
Boating During COVID-19: Navigating Local Restrictions & Safe Social Distancing
Boating safety is always—always—a critical consideration whenever you push off the dock, but with all the recent issues regarding COVID-19, many people are wondering if boating is considered a safe social distancing practice.
As boaters everywhere do their best to navigate these uncharted waters, we'll do our best to serve as a reliable resource in answering many of your questions about boating during the coronavirus—from navigating local boating restrictions and boat ramp closures in your area, to following best practices for social distancing on the water.
Is Boating a Safe Social Distancing Activity?
The short answer is yes, but the long answer is a bit more involved.
First and foremost, all the usual rules apply:
- You need to limit the people aboard to those family members you share your home with, period—no guests.
- You also can’t raft up with other boats or pull up onto a beach close to another boat, as that could put you in close proximity with the occupants.
- You also have to be careful to maintain a safe distance from others when doing things like loading up at the marina or fueling the boat.
- After doing anything that requires touching an item someone else may have touched, like a marina gate lock or a fuel pump, disinfect by washing your hands or using a hand sanitizer as soon as possible.
Finally, to maintain the highest level of safety pack your gear and supplies ahead of time and don’t plan to stop at a store on the way to the marina or launch ramp, as you usually might.
Infographic Courtesy of Sea Tow.
Where Can I Go Boating, and What Boat Ramps are Open in My Area?
Every state and in many cases different municipalities or counties have different regulations in place as to where you can launch a boat during this time of crisis. And these rules are changing by the day.
At Discover Boating, we strongly recommend checking on the legalities before making any trips. One resource you may want to use is our Public Water Access Guide Tool, which can help you discover nearby locations to go boating in your local community by using the interactive map. All you have to do is select your state to see the latest updates and closure status from state officials regarding public water access points, boat landings, and ramps.
Another handy resource can be found at the US Fish & Wildlife Service: State By State Closures, which lists the US Fish & Wildlife locations including many with access points, and their current status is updated daily.
Will I Receive Assistance If I have Mechanical Issues While Boating During the COVID-19 Crisis?
This is a question that may weigh heavily on a lot of people’s minds, since it’s another way your safety may be impacted out on the water. As we publish this report, on-the-water towing assistance from major fleets like TowBoatUS and Sea Tow remain active and able to respond (see the latest BoatUS COVID-19 statement and the Sea Tow statement on this issue).
In addition, search and rescue (SAR) and emergency personal from the US Coast Guard and most state agencies also remain active. However, due to the constantly changing nature of this emergency we highly recommend double-checking on all of the above, before taking out your boat.
How Do I Disinfect My Boat During the COVID-19 Crisis?
Like many solid surfaces, the parts of your boat could temporarily house the COVID-19 virus. As long as you keep boating between you and your family, your boat in and of itself shouldn’t be any problem. But, what if you want to be extra cautious and disinfect your boat?
In that case, go by the CDC recommendations. That means disinfecting surfaces with EPA-approved disinfectants, however, you should remember that some of the approved disinfectants (like bleach or acids) can harm some of the surfaces of a boat. The canvass and vinyls are particularly subject to damage or discoloration, if disinfecting chemicals are left on their surfaces.
So, after disinfecting be sure to give your boat a thorough wash-down. The most important thing overall is simply to maintain a clean boat; see our How to Clean a Boat Guide to keep things ship-shape.
The Bottom Line on Boating During Coronavirus
We boaters love getting out on the water, and part of that love comes from bonding with family, and spending quality time with a loved one, or just enjoying the solitude.
Thankfully, in areas where short-distance travel hasn’t been entirely eliminated we can still do all of these things safely on our boats. So check on the regulations affecting your locality. Be careful to maintain social distancing practices. And then cast off those lines and feel the wind in your hair—because boating is still the hands-down best way to enjoy living on planet Earth.
About Discover Boating:
Discover Boating is a public awareness effort managed by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) on behalf of the North American recreational boating industry. Discover Boating programs focus on increasing participation and creating interest in recreational boating by demonstrating the benefits, affordability and accessibility of the boating lifestyle while helping to educate potential boaters and offering opportunities to experience the fun and togetherness of being on the water on a boat. Each year nearly 70 million people in the U.S. enjoy boating, the recreational activity that "connects like no other.
COVID-19 Emergency Loans available for Marine Industry Small Businesses
The Corona Virus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently passed by Congress allocates $350 billion in 100% federally guaranteed loans to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn.
These loans are being offered and administered now through the SBA and local banks. Loans can be up to 2.5X the borrower's monthly payroll costs, not to exceed $10 million, and are available to small businesses (less than 500 employees) and self-employed individuals during the ensuing 12 week period. The list of For more information about the Corona Virus Emergency Loan Program contact your local lending institution and go online at www.sba.gov and www.uschamber.com/co.
The Paycheck Protection Program Borrower Application Form is available at: https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form--paycheck-protection-program-borrower-application-form
Family First Corona Virus Response Act
The FFCRA requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.
The following is a What You Need To Know e-book that iHire and PeopleWorks agreed to share: PDF
Information on the FFCVR is also available from the U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave
The FFCRA Employees Rights poster is available for download at: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus Prevention Plan is a document that is editable for you to have your own prevention plan in place. This document is available for download at: Word Document
OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The EEOC is updating this 2009 publication to address its application to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Employers and employees should follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as state/local public health authorities on how best to slow the spread of this disease and protect workers, customers, clients, and the general public. The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act do not interfere with employers following advice from the CDC and other public health authorities on appropriate steps to take relating to the workplace. This update retains the principles from the 2009 document but incorporates new information to respond to current employer questions. For readers’ ease the COVID-19 updates are all in bold.
CDC’s Updated Return-To-Work Standards