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COVID-19 concerns spark questions about workplace policies

Working from home not offered by some companies
Posted: 10:44 PM, Mar 18, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-19 17:17:18-04
360_coronavirus work policies.jpg

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.

DENVER -- The CDC’s recommended guidelines for workplaces and employers include: Encouraging sick employees to stay home, separating sick employees, emphasizing hand hygiene and routine cleaning of work spaces.

Yet, despite that, many who remain at work have concerns about whether they should be there.

With all the constant changes happening regarding COVID-19, who can blame them? Social distancing, hand washing, businesses closing – it all leaves a lot of you are asking – what about my workplace?

So, we're going 360 on workplace policies with business owners, employees and viewer concerns.

Let’s start there. We've fielded dozens of e-mails like this:

“My company is forbidding employees that could work from home from doing so… recklessly endangering the public."

Another says, "My boss has even said that this is a 'media hoax'…"

And this one, "Are we okay to be at work or should hotels not even be running business during the COVID-19 pandemic?"

Risky business

For physical therapist Robin, who asked us not to use her full name, it's top-of-mind.

“I'm a physical therapist. I specialize in pediatrics,” Robin said.

She works with children - primarily in their homes.

“And right now, a lot of parents are really concerned with in-home visits," Robin said.

Especially when a child is medically fragile.

"They have a myriad of medical disabilities,” Robin said.

Her job does allow her to work via telehealth.

“And telehealth allows me to do a live video treatment session with the family," Robin said. “It’s a wonderful tool.”

But she says the state didn’t immediately authorize telehealth for Medicaid patients.

“Since probably 80-90% of our kids are Medicaid kids, how are we going to treat them?" she said. “I just do not understand why this is a difficult concept."

Closed for business

While the state forced restaurants and bars and places like gyms to shut down, other businesses are allowed to stay open, for now.

"One of the things I offered for my employees, first of all, was for all of them to feel free to not come to work,” said Leila Gari, owner of the Denver Cat Company. “One of them took me up on it because she has an immunocompromised dad and sister."

The Denver Cat Company is a cat adoption café that Gari opened five years ago on Tennyson Ave. in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood. It’s always busy, but Gari says - eventually - she just saw the writing on the wall.

"Ultimately, I decided that it's best and safest to close right now,” Gari said. “In hopes that early closures - and it's not even that early anymore - reduce the spread and we get back to normal life."

She closed her doors earlier this week, even though that decision could be devastating.

"I will get through a month,” Gari said. “I don't know if I'll get through two months or three months."

Businesses let workers decide

Tony Baudoin, owner of Crisp Barbershop, feels the same way.

"I think everyone is just taking precautions right now," Baudoin said.

There's a lot of empty chairs in his shop because all his barbers are independent contractors who Baudoin gave the option to work or not.

"Everyone's got families at home, “ Baudoin said. “And at the end of the day - that's what we're looking out for most."

Open for business

Meanwhile, concerns persist at other businesses.

Several e-mail complaints have come in to the Denver7 newsroom about Charter Communications.

One e-mail saying the communications giant is not letting them work from home and, "I am personally afraid to lose my job for speaking out," the anonymous writer said.

Charter said in a statement to Denver7 that it provides a, "Community Lifeline… our services are essential." The statement went on to say if an employee is sick, "…paid sick leave is available."

In Robin's case - the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing did respond Wednesday by saying the state approved and expanded Medicaid telemedicine visits.

A fine line as we all try to navigate this new world.