NASA among Northeast Ohio employers preparing for coronavirus

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – Some employers in Northeast Ohio are preparing for potential impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The NASA Glenn Research Center is taking part in an agency-wide telework day Friday to test readiness for large-scale teleworking. A spokesperson said NASA centers and headquarters regularly perform telework drills to test capabilities, resources and preparedness.

“As always, the protection and care of our NASA team is the top priority. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation continues to evolve, NASA is taking various actions to maintain preparedness,” NASA Glenn spokesperson Jan Wittry said in a statement.

It comes as tech companies including Amazon and Facebook have urged their employees in Seattle to stay home for the rest of the month after employees tested positive for the virus.

“I think it makes sense in terms of exposure and it certainly should diminish the risk in that regard,” said Dr. Robert Salata, Director of University Hospital’s Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health.

He said COVID-19 is about twice as contagious as the flu and more deadly. Though there have been no confirmed cases in Ohio yet, Salata said employers should plan for the possibility of having employees work from home, especially high-risk employees.

Salata said the drill at NASA Glenn is an example of an effective way to prepare.

“They can then decide who are the essential people who need to be on site and not and if they do this over an extended period what the productivity will be, because that will be a major issue for these institutions and organizations,” he said.

Erin Spirnak, Cleveland Branch Manager for the staffing firm Robert Half, said the virus is top-of-mind in many workplaces.

“They are making sure they have protocol in place, sending out corporate memos, making sure they’re prepared,” Spirnak said. “They need to make sure employees have all the appropriate equipment. Business keeps running. So, everything they have in the office, can they have that in the comfort of their own home?”

While it’s not possible for all jobs, she said more companies are making work-from-home an option, in general. Spirnak said Robert Half study found a 60 percent increase in the option among Cleveland-area companies over the least three years.

“You need to make sure you have the same level of productivity at home as you do in the 8-to-5 you typically are in the office,” she said.

She said employees who do need to work from home should be sure to have a dedicated, quiet workspace with limited distractions and daily action items.

Health officials continue to recommend that anyone who is feeling sick should stay home.

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