Click here to listen to the article Twindemic in the Workplace – Preparing for a Winter with Flu and COVID-19.
The cold and flu season comes around every fall and winter, with the peak typically landing sometime between December and February.
While we know the flu season comes every year and prepare for it with flu shots, this year we face a new challenge that’s being referred to as the “twindemic”—in reference to the simultaneous surges in both the flu virus and the Delta variant of COVID-19. The main concern is that both viruses will overrun hospitals and make it difficult to provide adequate care for everyone who needs it.
Vaccination rates for COVID-19 vary across the country, but most places are reopening areas like schools, restaurants, and offices to in-person activities.
Focusing on the workplace, let’s look at how office life will be impacted by the twindemic and consider some ways to keep you and your family safe this fall and winter.
Returning to the Office
The fall and winter of 2021–2022 represent society’s second time of dealing with both the flu virus and COVID-19. But last year, social distancing and masking helped prevent a disastrous outbreak, as we saw historically low levels of influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
This year, COVID-19 vaccinations have allowed many businesses to return to in-person activities, and mask mandates vary both by region and individual office policies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a 10-step checklist for preventing the spread of the flu in the workplace, and many of the recommendations can apply to COVID-19 as well.
Here are a few key steps that management can take:
- Encourage all employees to get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine (and booster shot, when applicable)
- Consider hosting a flu vaccine clinic in the workplace, and/or provide resources and time off for employees to get vaccinated
- Review office policies around sick leave and allow workers to stay home and/or work remotely when they’re feeling sick
- Encourage preventive actions and provide resources like face masks, tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, and/or hand sanitizer
- Create an environment where people feel comfortable acknowledging the risks, and support employees who need to care for sick family members or children if schools close
For individual employees, here are some steps to consider to keep yourself safe at work and avoid bringing illnesses to your home:
- Get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19. Research has shown that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks
- If you feel sick, stay home. If you have a persistent fever or other symptoms, schedule time to see a doctor. Telehealth services may be most helpful in those situations
- Make a habit out of monitoring your health, and don’t hesitate to inform your employer if you become ill or need to stay home
- If you can, plan ahead for any potential time away from work or any time that your children may be out of school. The availability of in-person services may be impacted if flu or COVID-19 rates start to rise
- If you need to miss time for illness and your job doesn’t allow remote work or flexible sick leave, review government resources that can help
Stop the Spread of the Flu and COVID-19
We know that COVID-19 spreads from close contact and airborne transmission. Because Healthy Air is essential in staying safe through the upcoming twindemic, here are some Aprilaire resources that you can analyze for your home and workplace.