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Concern About Airborne Nature of COVID Slows Opening of Workplaces

The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the real risk that COVID-19 may be spread through tiny airborne droplets. As more study begins on this issue, this risk poses significant challenges for U.S. workplaces. How do employers keep individuals safe inside offices when it is possible that the tiny droplets could linger in the air for hours?

The result: some companies are slowing down their reopening of offices as they try to minimize the risk of transmission. Reuters reports that some employers are questioning whether public health recommendations for maintaining a distance of six feet apart and wearing masks to limit transmission are enough. There are concerns about air conditioning systems without appropriate filtration systems and the effectiveness of plexiglass partitions. These issues if unresolved could lead to increased worker absences, legal liability, and significant health care costs.

Companies such as General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have taken steps to maximize the ventilation in their facilities recognizing the potential for airborne transmission. Other companies are considering how to implement limits on the number of individuals who can be in the office at the same time.