City Health Dept. offers helpline, guidance on pandemic

The Philadelphia Dept. of Public Health has started a COVID-19 Helpline and a text update, and issued planning guidance for businesses and nonprofit organizations. The web page can be found here.

COVID-19 Text Alerts
Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone.

COVID-19 Helpline
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has announced activation of the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline. The Helpline can be reached by calling 1-800-722-7112. The Helpline, free and available 24/7, is a resource that anyone in the Greater Philadelphia area, including the public and healthcare providers, are encouraged to use to help answer all of their questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus. Staffed by medical experts, the helpline will help answer questions, including:

  • Symptoms and risk factors for the coronavirus
  • What to do if you think you may have been exposed
  • Testing resources
  • Recommendations for social distancing

When you call the Helpline, there are four prompts, including an option for emergency situations. Each of the prompts will direct callers to information appropriate to their needs. If the caller needs more help, the HelpLine is fully staffed with trained experts who can provide guidance.

“Aside from washing your hands and staying away from people who are sick, one of the most important things people can do in a pandemic is to listen to trusted experts,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “While the Health Department and CDC are great resources, we know that sometimes people have questions that need to be answered by a trained healthcare professional. The Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline is the perfect way to get your questions about the coronavirus answered, whenever you’re ready to ask them.”

Funding and staffing for the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline has been provided by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Guidance for Nonprofits and Businesses
In the event of a large-scale infectious disease outbreak, businesses and nonprofit organizations must both protect employees’ health and safety and limit the economic impact of the outbreak. The guidance below will assist businesses in preparing for continuity of critical operations if the COVID-19 coronavirus has a severe impact on Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide up-to-date, reliable information on coronavirus as the situation unfolds.

Read a letter from the Health Department to Philadelphia business owners and executives.

The City of Philadelphia is implementing the following strategies for its own workforce, and we encourage area businesses to do the same.

Develop or review a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)

  • Consider the essential resources needed to keep your business operating.
  • Consider the effects on business operations if absenteeism were 25-40%.
  • Identify and cross-train employees to perform essential roles in the case of severe staffing shortages.
  •     Consider which employees would most likely be absent if schools close.
  •     Identify alternate staff to fill essential positions.
  • Plan how to communicate and coordinate with employees, customers/clients, and suppliers during emergencies.
  • Consider trigger points to:
  •     Reduce operations to core business activities with a diminished workforce
  •     Temporarily reduce business services
  •     Shorten hours of operation
  • Consider on-site housing arrangements for employees performing critical roles, if this were to become necessary.

Encourage employees to stay home when sick

  • Develop flexible policies for employees who need to stay home when they or their family members are sick, particularly:
  •     Policies regarding unscheduled absences
  •     Policies regarding the use of sick time
  •     Return to work policies
  •     Compensation
  • Suspend policies requiring physicians’ notes for extended sick leave.
  • Educate employees about the availability of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Consider mandatory sick leave for employees with fever or respiratory symptoms.
  • Consider reassigning employees who are at an increased risk for severe complications associated with COVID-19 coronavirus away from direct contact with customers and clients.

Educate employees on the outbreak and preparedness

  • Provide employees with links to COVID-19 coronavirus information from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Provide information to employees regarding the business continuity plan.
  • Circulate information on respiratory etiquette and environmental cleaning procedures.
  • Encourage employees to create personal emergency preparedness plans.
  •     Include alternative childcare arrangements, where applicable.

Ensure the availability of essential technology and supplies

  • Work with IT to support continued communications (e.g., email, remote access, conference calls, webinars, etc.).
  • Identify supply needs for 2-5-week periods.
  • Stockpile infection control supplies, including handwashing products (soap, towels, hand sanitizers), tissues, and materials to produce educational materials on infection control (paper, printer ink, toner).

Be prepared to take steps to reduce employee interaction, if recommended

  • Be prepared to encourage employees to work from home, if possible.
  • Be prepared to cancel large meetings.

Limit non-essential travel

  • Consider limiting or canceling business trips.
  • Avoid affected areas with active COVID-19 coronavirus transmission.

Provide hygiene products

  • Place tissues and hand sanitizer in common areas of the workplace.
  • Ensure that soap and paper towels are stocked in restrooms at all times.

Discourage handshakes

  • Discourage the use of handshakes as a greeting between employees and customers.

Establish infection control measures in regard to environmental cleanliness

  • All office space and common facilities (e.g., bathrooms, conference rooms, workstations) should be cleaned regularly and surface areas disinfected daily.