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COVID-19 Advisory: COVID-19: A Riddle ~ Construction Site ~ Returning to Offices

May 21, 2020
To: All Domestic Employees
From: Pandemic Working Group
Re: COVID-19: A Riddle ~ Construction Site ~ Returning to Offices

A Riddle
What do Paris, Singapore and North Carolina have in common? Well, as it turns out, not much. In the City of Lights, after a two-month confinement (pursuant to which Parisians were permitted to walk within one kilometer of their residences solely for essential trips and required to carry a written attestation to to that effect), coronavirus cases have dropped from 1,000 infections per day to only 22. With that trend, shops have reopened, though table service at cafes is not yet available. After having had a higher per capita death rate than the U.S., France implemented extensive testing and tracing as well. At this stage, people are still very timid about going out; you can see them bearings masks and keeping their distance at a covered shop in Place d’Aligre in this photo from the NYT. 

By contrast, after enjoying an extremely low infection rate with no social restrictions early in the pandemic, due to extensive surveillance, testing, tracing and quarantine, Singapore experienced a surge in April in the dormitories that house hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, who had been largely ignored prior to that time. Cases rose to nearly 30,000 and, earlier in the week, 450 of the 451 daily cases were among the migrants. In response, the government has ordered a strict lockdown, threatening prison terms, heavy fines and court prosecutions for those who violate the pandemic rules. Mobile devices remind citizens constantly of their duty to be vigilant and to report neighbors who may be flouting the rules. In this photo, also from the NYT, Singaporeans huddle in groups on a public train during the month of March. That train car would look different today.

In a middle case, as reported by WBTV, the governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, yesterday announced that that state is entering into a “safer-at-home” version of his initial pandemic order. Based upon the fact that the state was meeting three of its four benchmarks on controlling contagion (number of hospital cases is flat, number of E.R. cases is down, positive tests/those tested is flat), the governor determined that it was acceptable to relax many, but not all social restrictions. Thus, for example, dine-in restaurants at 50% capacity and social distancing may reopen as can beauty salons, but health centers and gyms may not. Some commentators are calling this more of a Phase 1.5 than a Phase 2. The governor, then, is proceeding with caution using pandemic curves as a guidepost.

Clusters at Construction Sites
As a follow up to yesterday’s article on the tendency of the coronavirus to spread in clusters, we (Lucy Cooney) are finding that there is a fairly consistent trend of virus clusters at construction sites all over the country. The Charlotte Observer reports 16 cases at a single campus reconstruction project at Appalachian State. Similarly, CBSAustin reports 36 virus clusters in Travis County, Texas, including multiple construction sites where temperature testing is voluntary and often declined by workers who do not want to be excluded from the site. Also, WABI-TV reports 19 cases at a Maine Veterans Home building site in Augusta, Maine. Similarly, Newschannel5 reports 70 cases at the construction site for Montgomery Bell Academy athletic facility in Tennessee. Finally, closer to home (for those who work in Axis), at least nine cases have been detected in a work crew that was working on the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denney sports stadium. This phenomenon certainly deserves closer attention by public officials, as construction sites are distinguishing themselves as potential hotspots for the pandemic.

Returning to AMVAC Offices
With all of the talk of reopening in the news, some of our remote working employees have inquired as to when AMVAC may be calling them back to our offices. As a preliminary comment, it is worth repeating that our paramount concern is for the health and safety of our workforce at all locations. That said, with offices and facilities in many countries, our plans for when, how and to what extent we repatriate our workforce will depend upon many factors, including pandemic trends in the region, applicable public health orders, the configuration of the office or facility in question and the relative risk profile of the employees. Among the facilities in this region (two in Commerce and one in Newport Beach), for example, our employees are drawn from five counties. Thus, we are taking into account detection curves from those counties, while staying abreast of applicable state, county and city health orders relating to our operations, which, to date, have not changed materially. At this stage, then, we are maintaining our current work arrangements in this region. When we determine that it is appropriate to change – again, keeping employee health and safety at the forefront – we will do so gradually, incrementally and, of course, with ample notice to anyone affected.

If you have any questions or comments on this advisory, please contact either kellyw@amvac.com or timd@amvac.com.

COVID-19 Advisory: COVID-19: A Riddle ~ Construction Site ~ Returning to Offices