CHICAGO — Tech behemoth Google has told all of its North American employees to work from home for a month as it tries to protect employees from the coronavirus outbreak, officials confirmed.
The recommendation affects tens of thousands of employees, including those who were at the company’s Midwest headquarters at 1000 W. Fulton Market in the West Loop.
The company is recommending all of its North American employees work remotely through April 10.
Google officials hope the work-from-home directive will hamper the spread of COVID-19 and “reduce the burden in the local community and health resources,” a company spokesperson said. During the month long period, Google offices will “remain open for employees whose roles require them to come in.”
Before Tuesday’s announcement, company had previously given employees in California and New York the option to work from home while recommending employees work from home in Washington state.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 19 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Illinois — including multiple cases in Chicago. Gov. JB Pritzker declared a disaster proclamation as the virus spreads.
“… Illinois has one of the strongest public health systems in the nation,” Pritzker said during a Tuesday news conference, adding Illinois was one of the first states to test for COVID-19. “Of course, we must also contend with the reality that our capacity cannot be separated from the material response of the federal government, our federal partners.”
Pritzker said Illinois will use all the resources it can to respond to coronavirus, but he’s reached out to federal officials to “demand” more testing resources, which he said will be critical to Illinois’ response to the virus.
Fears over the virus has prompted city officials to take action including canceling school-related trips to areas at risk for coronavirus.
Vaughn Occupational High School in Portage Park remains closed after an employee there was confirmed to have coronavirus on Friday and students were encouraged to self-isolate.
Multiple large conventions and events have also been canceled in Chicago due to the virus. So far, Chicago’s major St. Patrick’s Day festivities will still go on.
Working from home and canceling large events could help slow the spread of coronavirus, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Across the country, 958 cases have been confirmed with 28 deaths, a majority in the state of Washington, according to John Hopkins University.
There have been more than 118,000 confirmed cases reported globally and more than 4,200 fatalities from the virus.
As of November, Google had more than 1,200 employees in Chicago, according to the Tribune.
Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.
Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Shortness of breath
How To Protect Yourself
First, reject the hype: You don’t need a facemask if you’re well. The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.
Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:
- The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
- Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you have to sneeze with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.
What To Do If You Think You’re Sick
Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.
If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where corona is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus.
Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
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