Chapter 1: Define COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Cross-Functional Team Leads

January 31, 2022

Assemble a Team of Experts

It is important to establish a strong, collaborative team that includes dedicated clinical and safety representatives. Here are our suggestions for who is needed to build a strong team of experts:

  • Clinician to help organizations understand the real-world and front line clinical implications of medical data
  • Epidemiologist or public health expert to guide decisions based on the broad state of population health and the context surrounding events
  • Scenario planner to determine the most and least likely public health scenarios, make projections based on existing data, and help organizations prepare accordingly
  • Security team to ensure that safety protocols are followed
  • Testing vendors to provide timely and accurate information about attendee health and/or COVID-19 status and set expectations for capabilities and limits of testing technologies

Define What Safety Means to Your Organization

What should workplace safety look like at your business? Should you equip employees with new protective gear? Reduce capacity in your building? And how do you ensure that your employees follow the rules? How do you stay agile in a dynamic environment and remain inclusive?

Work with your team to set the criteria for reopening, considering both internal and external factors. Think about the comfort level of your employees, leadership’s desire to return to the office, and the resources available to prepare the office. Are cases in your area declining? Is widespread testing available? What is the health system capacity in your area? Are there local or federal COVID-19 vaccination laws that must be met?

After you have clearly defined safety for your organization, you should revisit your standards on a regular basis to ensure that they are still appropriate. As new variants develop and new scientific evidence emerges, what works now may not be relevant in six months. Remaining informed and up to date as science evolves will be key to defining safety for your organization at different moments in time during the pandemic.

Implement Testing and Align with Local Vaccination Guidelines

Done correctly, testing mitigates the risk of spread. But still, it is merely a moment in time. Individuals could test negative but could still be contagious and eventually test positive at a later point in time.

We are living in a dynamic world where testing standards and technologies are constantly changing. The most accurate tests available are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which can take up to several days to get a result. Rapid tests, on the other hand, are not as accurate, but they can be done at home and provide results in as little as 15 minutes. At home rapid tests remain a useful tool as long as they can be obtained and are considered in the right context. The tests sacrifice some accuracy for speedy results, but they can be an aid for making decisions. At-home tests can be taken serially over moments in time, meaning an individual would take multiple tests over several days to increase confidence in the results.

Note, testing alone is not a foolproof solution and there is a chance your employees or customers could contract COVID-19 even with the most robust of protocols. The virus on average takes 3-5 days to incubate enough of a viral load to even be detected by testing. Vaccinations can be a complementary approach.

Lean into local and federal guidelines to determine whether or not to require COVID-19 vaccination. The occupancy size and geographic location of a gathering usually has local or federal health and safety protocols that need to be managed. If you are requiring COVID-19 vaccination, determine what it means to be “fully vaccinated.” Does that include the latest booster shot? Which manufacturers should be accepted? Public health guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) should drive this decision alongside the insights of your expert team. Science is constantly changing. Follow the public health guidelines according to the location of your event or workplace.

Products like Safety Cloud can help you easily and securely scale the collection and verification of COVID-19 test results and vaccination status.

Evaluate Hospital Capacity

There are several variables we consider when determining how to approach an event or workplace safety, but the ultimate decision should be made by answering this question: should someone get sick, are we prepared to take care of them medically? This includes being able to quarantine individuals and having onsite paramedics available to advise should an individual become positive. The most important metric to consider is hospital capacity. Hospitals are your last line of defense if someone gets severely ill. Local hospitals need enough doctors, staff, beds, and ventilators to adequately support those who contract COVID-19 at your event or workplace. Physical bed capacity estimated in parallel with hospital staff resources should help forecast true hospital capacity.

The hospital capacity threshold should be determined by your team of experts. If hospital capacity is severely limited, your office should not be open and you should not host your event.

If you ultimately decide to open your office or host your event, you should offer a hybrid model to be inclusive of all participants. It is important to be mindful that medical status is not the same for all attendees. Households could potentially have vulnerable members of the family that are immunocompromised or elderly. Hybrid models allow for agility and avoid last minute cancellations or unexpected attempts to provide a digital experience at the last minute.

Define On-Site Protocols

Additional safety measures, including masking and social distancing, provide a secondary defense against viral spread. You should encourage social distancing by arranging seats according to current safety standards. Follow the latest public health guidance for what constitutes an effective mask, and if possible, make masks readily available for individuals on-site. Create checkpoints and protocols to ensure attendees have completed pre-arrival testing. No one enters the office or event if they don’t meet all entry requirements.

Document and Communicate the Plan

Keep your employees and customers informed of the latest developments. Be honest and transparent about the reasons for changes and don’t be afraid to mention any unknowns. Enlist your medical experts to help communicate and garner trust during the planning and execution phases of your plan.

Each in-person attendee has a shared responsibility for the safety of the community. Maintain a regular messaging cadence, and remember that communication is a two-way street. Listen to your stakeholders. Solicit feedback for areas of improvement. Lean on them, just as they will lean on you. Remember to keep them at the center of everything you do.

We did that for our employees and customers by:

  • Holding and recording live health and safety briefings to answer any questions, leveraging our medical experts in these sessions as trusted voices.
  • Creating FAQ documents.
  • Sending regular emails with relevant updates using Marketing Cloud.
  • Sending a “Know Before You Go” communication including any pre-arrival actions needed and an outline of what in-person attendees can expect.
  • Following up with a survey to get in-person attendee feedback.

Learn more about bringing employees and customers together safely with Safety Cloud.


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Discover how to turn safety protocols into action:

  • Come back together safely at work with scalable frameworks
  • Bring employees and customers together safely at in-person events
  • Be ready to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances quickly

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About the Authors

Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA
Chief Medical Officer
Brent Hyder
Chief People Officer
Sarah Franklin
Chief Marketing Officer

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