PR: Cook County Public Health advice to businesses on coping with the Omicron surge

Cook County Public Health advice to businesses on coping with the Omicron surge

Grace Grinager, Cook County Public Health Supervisor, wishes to alert business owners and managers that the COVID-19 surge resulting from the Omicron variant will affect us here in Cook County, likely for the next few months. It is so highly contagious that it is spreading at three-to-five times as fast as the original strain of COVID-19.

Grinager said the main impact on businesses will be staff shortages when employees call in ill. Here are a few pieces of advice for local business owners:

  1. Please support your employees in staying home when they are sick!!!  While challenging, this is the most important thing you can do to help prevent COVID from spreading rapidly in your workforce
  2. Please encourage your employees to get vaccinated AND boosted if they are eligible (2 months after J&J, 5 months after Pfizer series, or 6 months after Moderna series).  Weekly opportunities continue to be advertised on the county’s hub site (http://cookcountycovid19.org).  The booster dose is particularly important at preventing infection.
  3. Re-visit and strengthen your COVID mitigation strategies.  With this new variant spreading, this is more important than ever in order to minimize disruption to your business.  Encourage masking with a KN-95 level mask (one clearinghouse for vetted masks is https://shop.projectn95.org/masks/).  Consider staggering staffing, and distancing staff to the extent possible when on-site.  Make sure that staff who have been feeling ill or have been exposed to COVID-19 test (5 days post-exposure).  Consider having test kits (antigen or mail-in saliva test kits) available on-site at your business to facilitate testing.

The nature of the pandemic is changing.  Due to the highly contagious nature of the new variant, the sheer number of people becoming sick will rise.  While we do expect more breakthrough cases, this doesn’t mean the vaccines aren’t working.  With more people in the community vaccinated and boosted, the chances of the vaccinated segment of the population becoming seriously ill is much lower than it has been in the past.  The segment of the population that remains unvaccinated remains at higher risk for both infection as well as serious outcomes due to COVID-19.  This is worrisome as our medical system as a local, regional, and state level are extremely stressed.  It continues to be very challenging to transfer local patients out when they require a more intensive level of care (please see attached media release from 1/4/22 Joint Media Release Healthcare Strain – FINAL).