By Imani Wj Wright
Special to AFRO

Amid the pandemic of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the global community has been put on halt. Severe safety precautions, federal regulated distancing and the closing of public entities have all been efforts to decelerate the spread of  COVID-19. As of 1p.m. EST on March 23, there have been 33,404 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 400 total deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Maryland Department of Health reports 31 cases in Baltimore City alone, accompanied by three deaths in the state of Maryland. 

About a week earlier, around March 12, there were no reported cases of COVID-19 as of yet in Baltimore City as the Greater Baltimore Committee held their Newsmaker Speaker Series: State of The Novel COVID-19 Outbreak. The session’s keynote speakers included former Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen and Dawn O’Neill, vice president of Population Health at Saint Agnes Hospital. Business owners and employers gathered to gain insight on how to approach the operation of their workplaces, when and when not to send employees home, and how to heightened levels of sanitation throughout their places of business.

Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore City health commissioner, left, Dawn O’Neill, vice president of Population Health at Saint Agnes Hospital, middle, and Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Community. (Photo by Imani Wj Wright)

“We know there are individuals who feel like they have to come to work. It’s really critical to think about how we’re treating our employees at this time. As employers, it is your responsibility to keep a clean environment.” O’Neill stated. She continued, reminding employers that the CDC provides several online resources in regards to keeping a sufficiently clean workspace. 

The practice of social distancing was clearly shown throughout the room as attendees sat spread apart, and rubbed elbows in lieu of shaking hands. Hand sanitizer (71 percent alcohol) was visibly available throughout the room. 

“This is going to get much worse before we have any chance of it getting better. We are at the brink of having many more cases in the coming weeks to months. What happens next depends on each of us. [It] depends on our ability to contain this virus and to contain the spread. It really is up to each one of us to make a difference,” Dr. Wen told the AFRO. 

In regards to the significance of the event, Donlad C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said “Obviously one of the key ingredients of a successful business is your employees and the health of your employees. So it’s important to hear from public health experts to identify what needs to be done and what can be expected so you have contingency plans to address those.” 

“[The crisis] is ever evolving. We have to constantly be paying attention to things that may change as time goes on. From what we’ve been informed this morning, we have to take some personal responsibility in respects to keeping our workstations clean, not doing non-essential travel… and also be flexible as this Coronavirus is evolving.” Fry added.

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