On March 7, 2020, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued Executive Order 202, declaring a state of emergency in New York in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 20, 2020, the State declared that all non-essential workers were to work from home, immediately.
As the State and the Country implemented measures aimed at reducing the spread of the virus, Walden formed a committee to research the COVID-19 pandemic with the ultimate goal of developing re-opening plans to support our clients and to ensure that employees returned to work in a safe and comfortable matter, when allowed to do so. In researching COVID-19, the committee filtered the available content from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and other credible sources, which allowed Walden to ignore noise from media outlets and trust that the information being studied was accurate and reliable.
On May 11, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced that Phase 1 of the reopening in New York would begin on May 15th, depending on regional metrics and indicators. Walden began preparing for Phase II re-opening procedures. Walden specified adjustments to office layouts, limiting re-opening to 25% occupancy, physical modifications to office space, as well as other administrative and engineering controls. It was vital to obtain adequate inventory stock of hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, surgical masks and other items essential to limiting the spread of the virus. In addition, specifications were developed for installing social distancing markers and instructional signs/posters, and providing kits of sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and masks for distribution to returning staff.
Further assessments were made related to physical modifications to office ventilation systems, areas of high-density foot traffic and employee/visitor entrances. It is understood that the virus may spread by similar means as the flu and other respiratory ailments, in that droplets containing the virus can spread through the air and linger for an extended period of time. By improving office ventilation through modifications to the existing HVAC system (returns and UV lights) and installing screens on doors and windows, a greater influx of fresh air and turnover of air acts to reduce the concentration of the virus in office space.
Installation of physical barriers in areas where staff and visitors are most likely to travel and congregate is essential to protect employees while remaining safe and comfortable in the workplace. Office entrance procedures were also established. For example, the main entrance could be for staff only, who would upon entering, receive a temperature check as well as any supplies they may need. Other visitors such as clients, mail carriers and equipment transporters could use other entrances where zones for their respective purpose were established.
By being proactive and exceeding the minimum reopening requirements established by New York State, Walden helped clients successfully re-open. Before returning to work in accordance with the procedures outlined in the reopening plans, employees read the plan and certified that they would adhere to the requirements to ensure that all returned to work in a safe and comfortable environment.
Walden looks forward to the continued re-opening of New York State and the Country. Through the combination of telecommuting, improved office safety protocols and adherence to expert guidance, Walden and Walden’s clients will continue to operate in a safe manner in which all employees can be confident in their work environment and health.