WASHINGTON — Starting in March, the District modified some of its COVID-restrictions, including the provision leftover from last year that strongly encouraged nonessential employees to work from home.
Residents on social media questioned how safe it really is to head back into the office. WUSA9’s Q&A team went to an expert at Johns Hopkins University to find out.
How much do workplaces contribute to the spread of viruses?
“Anytime you're in a closed, confined area, with multiple people around, you set up a situation where the virus can be easily transmitted,” Professor of microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Andrew Pekosz, said. “Workplaces and schools are all situations where virus transmission is quite easy to go to undergo and can occur quite effectively.”
Is it a good idea to reopen workplaces and move away from telework?
RELATED: Could working remotely last forever?
A: Dr. Pekosz said he doesn’t think so. “It seems like we're putting ourselves in situations where the virus can spread more easily again, and that is really the wrong thing to do right now, particularly since we're so close to having the vaccine rollout come around, which will provide us all with a much greater level of protection.”
Q: With more and more people are getting vaccinated every day, does that make the return to work safer?
A: Although increased vaccinations certainly help, Dr. Pekosz emphasizes that we’re not out of the woods yet. “We have to give it a few more weeks so we can get the case numbers down and we have to get a critical number of people vaccinated before we can really seriously think about opening up workplaces.”
Q: Is it really possible for workplaces to open up safely with the pandemic ongoing?
A: “I think it is absolutely possible to make virtually all workplaces and schools and other areas where we gather to be safe from COVID-19 transmission. Again, vaccination is one of those things,” he said. “Staggered shifts, having some people working at home two days in work three days, those types of approaches are all going to help us.”