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CDC: Employers should consider encouraging workers to drive to work

Water fountains were off limits this week at the Boston Scientific offices in Marlborough.
Water fountains were off limits this week at the Boston Scientific offices in Marlborough.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

The CDC is suggesting that employers consider encouraging office workers to commute by car or as the sole passenger in a ride-hailing service car.

The suggestion comes in recent guidelines issued by the disease control agency as the country gradually emerges from restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For people who commute on public transportation, the CDC is floating the idea of offering "employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others, such as offering reimbursement for parking or single-occupancy ride shares.”

The CDC also suggests that transit-riding employees be allowed to shift their hours so they can commute during less busy times and that they be asked to clean their hands as soon as possible after they arrive at work.

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In Massachusetts, officials have not emphasized car commuting as an alternative to public transit in the new coronavirus era. Governor Charlie Baker has urged employers to allow people to work from home, if possible.

The idea of encouraging car commuting was mentioned earlier this month in general guidelines issued by the CDC for all employers. It reappeared in recently issued guidelines on how to run office buildings safely in the coronavirus era.

The latest guidelines offer a host of recommendations for reopening offices, including reconfiguring spaces to increase distance between people, increasing ventilation and air filtration, encouraging sick people to stay home, stepping up cleaning of surfaces, conducting daily health checks, and encouraging mask-wearing.

“Office building employers, building owners and managers, and building operations specialists can take steps to create a safe and healthy workplace and protect workers and clients,” said the guidelines.

Some of the recommendations drilled down into the smaller details of office life. For example, the guidelines called for prohibiting handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps.

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The CDC also called for replacing “high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots, water coolers, and bulk snacks, with alternatives such as pre-packaged, single-serving items.”

The latest guidelines for offices come after the state of Massachusetts issued its own detailed guidelines on May 18.

As part of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, most offices around the state were allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity on May 25; Boston was one exception, with offices allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity on Monday. Many employers have been allowing their employees to telework, even as restrictions have been eased.

Going back to work at the office is expected to be totally transformed experience because of the myriad precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus, which has killed more than 361,000 people across the world, including 101,000 in the United States.

Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed to this report.



Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com