EVERETT — Businesses in Snohomish County and across the Puget Sound region are canceling large group meetings, arranging for employees to work at home and limiting nonessential travel in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Virtual meetings and phone conferences are the new offices and boardrooms.
The Snohomish Health District recommended Thursday that gatherings of more than 50 people be avoided or canceled, and health experts are urging businesses to make arrangements for employees to work at home, if possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says companies should have contingency plans that include sick leave policies and safeguards consistent with public health guidance.
Even the Boeing Co. is cutting non-essential air travel.
A worker on the 777 line at the Boeing assembly plant in Everett went home Wednesday night with flu-like symptoms, the company said. Another 10 employees who were in close contact with the man were sent home as a precaution. The Everett plant and campus employ more than 30,000 people.
In a memo to employees, a company manager said: “The employee did not need emergency care, but he has gone home and will contact his personal doctor tomorrow to follow up.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have asked about 10 teammates who were in close contact during second shift to also go home. The facilities team has begun cleaning the work area, again just to be safe.
In a statement issued earlier in the week, Boeing said it is “taking prudent measures to ensure the health and safety” of employees and families, including reducing face-to-face gatherings and limiting non-essential travel.
Like other organizations and large employers, Boeing said it plans to reschedule some events, use telecommunications when possible and encourage employees to take appropriate health and safety measures.
Port of Everett
Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, said port officials are monitoring the situation, keeping in mind that the risk of infection is growing.
“Using the guidance of the various health departments and the Centers for Disease Control, we are preparing an infectious disease response and operational continuity plan so we are prepared in the unlikely event that our operations and/or offices are affected by this virus,” Lefeber wrote in a memo to port employees.
The seaport, which serves ships from Japan, Russia, China and Australia, has not been affected, port spokeswoman Catherine Soper said.
“So far we have not seen any adverse impact on our shipping activity, likely in part due to our cargo mix, which is mostly focused on high-value, heavy cargoes for industry vs. containerized consumer goods. We continue to watch this very closely,” Soper said.
The cargo mix includes aerospace components for the 747, 767 and 777 production lines at the Boeing wide-body assembly plant at Paine Field.
Naval Station Everett
Naval Station Everett employs between 3,000 and 4,000 military and civilian workers, depending on the number of ships that are tied up at the base.
”We’re reminding people of the guidance for basic hygiene,” Kristin Ching, public affairs officer, said Thursday.
Ching said precautionary measures such as event and meeting cancellation and social distancing practices are being discussed.
Premera Blue Cross
On Thursday, Premera Blue Cross announced that employees in Western Washington will be required to work from home beginning Monday through March 24. The Mountlake Terrace-based health insurance company employs about 2,000 workers in offices in Mountlake Terrace and Bothell.
Airlines are bracing for cancellations and a steep drop in bookings as people shun the risk of exposure through travel. Meanwhile, they are cleaning aircraft more thoroughly than usual.
Alaska Airlines, which operates 18 daily flights from the new passenger terminal at Paine Field, has begun enhanced aircraft cleaning between flights that are on the ground “longer than an hour at our hubs,” the Seattle-based carrier said in a blog post.
United Airlines this week said it plans to cut spring domestic flights by 10%. United operates three daily nonstop flights to Denver from Everett.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods