The Northwest Arkansas Council, working with local, state and federal healthcare officials, has assembled a reference guide for employers. It is intended to offer guidance to help minimize health risks for employees returning to work during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The resource guide is available online and was updated on Friday (May 29) with the latest guidelines during a webinar hosted by the council.
Dr. James Marzolf of the Whole Health Institute said wearing masks is encouraged and should be worn as an act of charity to protect others against particles that are released from sneezing, talking and coughing.
While the region has seen more testing for COVID-19 in recent weeks, Dr. Lisa Low, medical director at Mercy Hospital in Rogers, said the increase in testing is not the only reason there are more positive cases. She said a rise in positive cases is to be expected as the region begins to reopen for business. She also cautioned that because businesses are reopening does not mean the pandemic has dissipated.
“We are still in the midst of a pandemic and people need to remember that,” Low said during the webinar.
Dr. Mark Thomas, medical director at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, echoed the sentiment. He said Washington Regional has seen 150 people in its COVID-19 unit in the past 75 days. He expects the positive cases will continue to increase as more people are out and about. Thomas said social distancing, wearing masks and proper hand hygiene can help slow the spread, but the virus is likely going to be around for many more months.
The panel of doctors in Friday’s webinar encouraged businesses that reopen to follow the protocols outlined in the report and when they have an employee who tests positive not to panic because it will likely happen. The healthcare professionals expect the number of cases to rise significantly in Northwest Arkansas in the coming days and they recommend wearing masks, social distancing and proper handwashing as the best way to reduce the chances of contracting the virus.
Marzolf said most of those infected with COVID-19 will experience mild systems, but they do not always know the health conditions of those with whom they associate who could become very ill from the same virus.
For that reason, only small social gatherings are recommended for the foreseeable future.