Ever since COVID-19 was first discovered in the United States, it has been a constant fight to keep up with the virus. Initially, many doubted the possibility that the virus would spread; however, as time progressed and the number of cases increased at an exponential rate, even those who were initially skeptical began to understand the threat posed by the virus.
Current United States COVID-19 Statistics:
- Cases: 1,263,224
- Deaths: 74,809
- Tests administered: 8,005,589
Current Illinois COVID-19 Statistics:
- Cases: 68,232
- Deaths: 2,974
- Tests administered: 361,260
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in the country, even those who have not contracted the virus or know anyone who has. In response to the threat posed by the virus, on March 20, Governor Pritzker issued an order, requiring schools and most business and government offices to remain closed. The order initially extended through April 7, 2020. However, on April 1, 2020, the Governor extended the emergency order until April 30. In the end of April, the Governor again extended the order until the end of May, allowing for some restrictions to loosen including curbside pick-up and delivery at retail store. However, under the most recent order, all residents are required to wear face masks when in public, if they cannot maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.
The Governor’s order requires everyone stay at home unless leaving for an “essential activity.” Among the essential activities listed in the Governor’s order was “to perform work providing essential products and services at Essential Businesses or Operations or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted” by the order.
The Governor’s order broadly outlines which jobs are considered essential, including those relating to:
- Healthcare and public health operations
- Human services operations
- Essential infrastructure
- Essential government functions
Of course, there is some gray area in terms of what specific jobs fall into each of these four very broad categories. The Governor’s executive order provides some guidance, listing the following positions as essential, among others:
- Food production, distribution and sales;
- Building management and maintenance
- First responders
- Emergency personnel
- Law enforcement
- Grocery stores
- Charitable and social services
- Banks and financial institutions
- Hardware stores
- Critical trades, such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators and janitorial staff
- Mail and shipping
- Educational institutions
- Restaurants (for consumption off-premises)
- Home-based care
- Residential facilities and shelters
- Hotels and motels
- Funeral services
Those employees whose job fits into one of the above categories may be required by their employer to come to work, despite the hazards associated with being out in public during the pandemic. Employers that are deemed essential and are allowed to remain open during the pandemic have a crucial responsibility to their employees, customers as well as society as a whole. Indeed, studies have shown that essential workers, on average, spend over half their time in close proximity to others. Unless employers take the necessary precaution to curb the spread of the virus, as states begin to re-open there is a substantial likelihood that the number of COVID-19 cases will surge.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity recommend that essential employers take certain precautions, including:
- Encouraging telecommuting, when feasible;
- Considering alternative work schedules to reduce employee overlap;
- Encouraging all employees who do not feel well to stay home and get tested for COVID-19;
- Take steps to ensure social-distancing protocol can safely be followed, including:
- Using tape or signage, designated six-foot areas such that employees and customers can maintain the appropriate distance
- Provide hand sanitizer for customers and employees
- Implement separate operating hours for older customers as well as those with pre-existing conditions
- Clearly posting hours online to prevent unnecessary travel
The above recommendations are crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Thus, it is imperative that all employers do all they can to closely follow the recommendations.
What if an Employer Is Not Following the CDC Guidelines?
While the CDC has made it very clear what businesses need to do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some businesses are not following the recommendations. Employers who fail to take these recommendations seriously put employees at a heightened – an unnecessary – risk of contracting COVID-19. The Illinois Department of Public Health encourages all essential workers who notice that their employer is not following the required protocol to report their employer to the Workplace Rights Bureau. If an employee believes that a workplace has two or more people who are infected with COVID-19, they are encouraged to contact their local public health department. Note that under the Whistleblower Protection Act, employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee who reports an employer for failing to comply with the required recommendations.
In addition, employees who have contracted COVID-19 should reach out to one of the dedicated Chicago personal injury lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg for immediate assistance. Our team of Illinois workplace injury lawyers are ready to meet with employees over the phone or through video chat to discuss their cases. We have over 30 years of experience advocating on behalf of injured employees, and are prepared to address the unique challenges that COVID-19 work injury cases will present.
Contact an Experienced Chicago Workplace Accident Law Firm
If you or someone you care about has recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suffered any type of workplace injury, the dedicated Illinois personal injury lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg can help. Our attorneys represent injured employees and their families in personal injury and workers’ compensation claims. Our firm has over 30 years of experience advocating on behalf of Chicago workers, and we know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. All cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means that we will only accept payment if we are successful in getting compensation for you or your family. We are here for you and your family during this difficult time. To learn more, call 1-877-595-4878 to schedule a free consultation today.