Coronavirus, Travel & Your Employees


Monday evening, March 2, Governor Kemp confirmed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has positively identified two Georgia residents with the coronavirus.  Employers in Georgia and around the nation need to make plans about the possibility of school and other building closures and restrictions on travel in and out of the United States.  We recommend that employers develop a contingency plan for employees that may need to work from home or be out for an extended period of time. 

Amazon, located in Washington state, deferred all non-essential travel, within the U.S. and beyond.  This impacts 798,000 full and part-time workers globally. Google set new restrictions for travel to South Korea and other places. Facebook Inc also said it would cancel its annual developer conference in May because of the virus.  Other companies including London Stock Exchange Group, and U.S. grains trader Cargill Inc have also placed curbs on non-essential travel.  Chipmaker Microchip Technology said it would not be attending any investor conferences in the rest of the current quarter, due to travel restrictions over the outbreak. 

As corporations move to protect employees from the spread of coronavirus, medium and smaller companies should evaluate their position on this issue as well.   In deciding what your company’s policy is going to be, consider these factors: 

  1. Are you 65 years or older? 
  2. Do you have an underlying health conditions? 
  3. Will you be able to return from the destination or is their risk of being stuck for a significant period of time? 

At this point there is no reason an employer should or must restrict travel within the U.S.  Because of possible employer liability, we recommend allowing your employees to opt out of traveling within or outside of the U.S. during this time period.   If business travel requires going to a Level 3 country or location, please follow the CDC guidelines.  See below. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.  The United States may begin restricting travel on our southern border with Mexico, officials said. However, they are encouraging Americans to travel around the country, including states that have recorded some of its more than 60 cases.  Nevertheless, many U.S. companies are placing travel restrictions on their employees.   

U.S. health officials have identified and tested 43 cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus)  as of March 2. In addition, 48 cases were found among people who flew back to the U.S. on flights chartered by the U.S. State Department, including those who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Six people in the U.S. have died from coronavirus, four of whom were in Washington state.  The U.S. government and public health partners are implementing aggressive measures to slow and contain transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. 

Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 appears to occur mainly by respiratory transmission. How easily the virus is transmitted between people is currently unclear. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The incubation period appears to be 2–14 days after exposure. Preliminary data suggests that older adults and persons with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus.  There is no vaccine to protect against the virus and no medications to treat it. CDC guidance for businesses to respond to coronavirus.  

Spread Of Coronavirus In The U.S. 

In late January, testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the United States. Since then, the number of confirmed cases has risen to nearly 100. That number includes people who were repatriated from China, where the novel coronavirus emerged months ago, and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. 

States with confirmed cases of COVID-19 

Data as of 3 p.m. ET, March 2. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Credit: Daniel Wood and Stephanie Adeline/NPR

Information for traveling within and outside of the U.S.- 

1. Watch Level 1 (Green): Practice usual precautions for this destination. 

a. Hong Kong 

2. Alert Level 2 (Yellow): Practice enhanced precautions for this destination.

a. Japan

3. Warning Level 3 (Red) Avoid all non-essential travel to this destination. The outbreak is of high risk to travelers and no precautions are available to protect against the identified increased risk. 

a. Italy

b. South Korea 

c. Iran 

d. People’s Republic of China (this does not include Hong Kong, Macau, or the island of Taiwan).