YBOR CITY, Fla. — Many Florida residents have gone back to work since the state began its phased reopening process in May. With the pandemic still raging, though, it begs the question: are employers doing enough to protect their workers from the virus?

The question takes on even more importance when the businesses operate and draw workers from minority communities. Black people are five times more likely to be hospitalized or worse when it comes to COVID-19, according to the CDC. The statistics for Hispanic and Native American communities are similar.

What You Need To Know

At 7th and Grove restaurant in Ybor City, where ownership and the majority of employees are Black, protecting the health of workers has become paramount.

“It’s important and I think it’s just, and this is no shot to anybody, but it’s human decency. If you see your employees as family, you want to protect them at all costs,” said 7th and Grove co-owner Dr. Jamaris Glenn. “We’re currently disinfecting our whole space, so we do a fogging at least twice a week. We also ensure our staff is doing frequent hand washing. They use gloves, masks and wear mandated facemasks. We do temperature checks at the door, we have paper menus, also you can use contactless menus with us.”

Glenn and his business partner are both pharmacists. He said his medical background is part of the reason why they’re taking so many precautions.

They’re also offering incentives to any of their employees who get tested for COVID-19.

Empowering workers to safeguard their health

Dr. Anthony Harris works with WorkCare, a medical company that focuses on protecting and promoting employee health.

He wants employers to pay close attention to the precautions many are taking, and he says employees shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, either.

“I think asking for just the basic resources, because a lot of time the basic resources are not provided in those underrepresented workforce populations,” Harris said. “We occupy disproportionately the workforce that’s on the lowest socioeconomic tier, so the employer may not believe they have an obligation.”

But Harris says they do have an obligation.

“Even if you have good practices in the workplace, as an employer you’re putting up barriers," he explained. "Plastic barriers you see up and what not, allowing for social distancing, and screening like temperature checks and health screenings when people show up to work — those things are necessary but it’s not sufficient to help holistically prevent risks."

Looking beyond the workplace

Harris pointed out a number of things employers should also pay attention to that extend far beyond the workplace.

“Studies have shown the moment those individuals in those particular industries that are Black and Brown leave the workplace, what’s the practice? Carpooling,” he said. “Carpooling is far greater in black and brown communities and if they’re in the car with their colleagues that have exposure risks, then they’re at risk for transmission of Covid.” 

That’s why, according to Harris, educating employees about best practices in and out of the workplace is so important. He said it’s one of the key ways to prevent the virus from spreading while protecting your business.

“The work place is becoming the epicenter for public health as it pertains to Covid in the U.S. OSHA has required now the workplace to report any cases of Covid that may have happened in the workplace, and so by law that mandate puts a burden in the employer that’s going to require some different strategies,” he explained.

For more information from the CDC on COVID-19 in Racial and Ethic Minority Groups and precautions health care professionals and community organizations can implement to improve safety, click HERE.

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