As offices across the United States prepare to reopen, the risk of contracting the coronavirus has fallen significantly, especially for those who are fully vaccinated, though it has not disappeared entirely.
But there are some clear, evidence-based steps that employers can take to protect their workers — and that workers can take to protect themselves — after more than a year away from the office.
Experts recommend that employers thoroughly flush water taps, by turning them on and letting them run, before reopening. This can reduce the risk of a bacteria that develops in unused plumbing systems and causes a type of pneumonia known as Legionnaire’s disease.
Because the coronavirus is thought to spread primarily through tiny, airborne droplets, employers should upgrade their ventilation and filtration systems before bringing workers back, experts said.
Staggered schedules, reducing the number of employees in the building at the same time, could help limit exposure in case of a coronavirus infection. For employees, regular hand-washing and mask wearing go a long way.
Joseph Allen, an expert on healthy buildings who teaches at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that for those who are eligible, the most effective risk reduction strategy is obvious: “The No. 1 thing is to get vaccinated.”
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