Hartford Business Journal

May 4, 2020

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www.HartfordBusiness.com • May 4, 2020 • Hartford Business Journal 21 Ahead of curve, Glastonbury's HABCO Industries adopts on-site COVID-19 testing program By Greg Bordonaro gbordonaro@hartfordbusiness.com W hile many Connecticut essential employers have remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, they are still searching for ways to keep their work- ers safe, particularly manufacturers that have employees on shop floors. Glastonbury aerospace manufactur- er HABCO Industries has been ahead of the preparation curve, discussing and implementing safety measures since February, according to CEO and President Brian Montanari. The company now has a 10-plus page document that outlines rules and procedures management and employees must follow, including mandatory temperature checks, strict sanitizing and cleaning pro- tocols and requirements to wear gloves and masks, which have been in place since mid-March. Most recently, it implemented an on-site voluntary testing pro- gram, putting it at the forefront of a preventative measure Connecticut companies will likely need to adopt more widely, before Gov. Ned Lamont agrees to reopen the state's economy. Montanari said HABCO secured COVID-19 test kits from Texas-based MicroGenDX, which received authoriza- tion from the Food and Drug Adminis- tration to market and sell its product. The test doesn't require a finger prick or nose swab. Instead, it uses a saliva sample and comes with a high rate of accuracy, Montanari said. So far, about three dozen HABCO em- ployees have been tested, and none have tested positive for COVID-19, Montanari said, adding the company has spent about $25,000 so far on the program. Each test kit costs $100; HABCO has bought about 200 of them. "We have taken every step pos- sible to protect our employees and still meet de- mand," Montanari said. "It's given our workers a sense of comfort." HABCO has just under 100 employees, half of which have worked from home since mid- March. Shop- floor workers are staggered between two shifts so they can maintain safe social distancing. They've also doubled the number of days cleaning crews come to the facility at 172 Oak St. Montanari even created a Youtube channel to provide employees work- ing on campus and remotely with company updates. He said after the initial voluntary baseline testing, employees will only be considered for testing if they have a fever or come in contact with some- one diagnosed with COVID-19. But he wouldn't mind if the government mandated testing, especially when it's time to bring back his employees who have been working remotely. But it does require some invest- ment. Besides the costs for individual tests, HABCO set up stringent test- ing processes and contracted with a nurse practitioner to allow it to meet program-participation guidelines. Employees go to their cars to produce the sample, which is then collected and sent for testing in Texas. So far, results have come back within 24 hours, Montanari said. Ahead of the curve Montanari said it's been a mission of his management team to stay ahead of the pandemic because of the potential harm it could cause his business and employees. When Lamont issued an execu- tive order April 8, outlining safety measures for essential employers, HABCO was already in compliance with 48 out of 50 measures, he said. One thing they didn't do was re- move garbage-can lids in the cafeteria. "As soon as I saw that I left my office and did it myself," Montanari said. "I believe our actions have been timely and appropriate, allowing us to plan and execute as opposed to react." half of my people come in and half work remotely, so that there was not a lot of overlap." Safety restrictions on non-essen- tial companies will be eased as the statewide infection rate goes down significantly, but residents should expect some form of social distanc- ing to remain a necessary measure at least through the fall, Lamont said. "At that point you can start relax- ing some of those restrictions," he said. "But if you have a preexisting condition, if you're over the age of 70, probably some of those require- ments will stay in place even longer." Lamont said his mandate calling for non-essential businesses to remain closed until at least May 20 represents a timeline when he would like the state's 50-member business/health advisory group to submit its recommendations on reopening commerce in a safe and healthy manner. Connecticut, he said, is making major progress toward reopen- ing as the state has been steadily increasing its testing capacity and stockpiling critical personal protection equipment (PPE) and reliable healthcare data. The governor declined to specu- late if recent restrictions imposed on essential businesses — such as requiring face masks — will be re- quired for all employees when Con- necticut returns to work. Lamont said he would like to hear from his advisory group first. "I know everybody is ready to go, everybody is ready to get back to work," he said. "But the risk of open- ing too early and having a second round of this is something that scares the hell out of every governor in the country — except for Geor- gia," Lamont joked. Joe Cooper is HBJ's web editor and real estate writer. He pens "The Real Deal" column about commercial real estate. THE REAL DEAL Here are the current rules on face masks in the workplace Gov. Ned Lamont has issued an executive order requiring the use of face masks in the workplace but there are some caveats. Here are the current rules for essential employers: Each employee must wear a mask that covers his or her mouth and nose while in the workplace, except when using break time to eat or drink. Employers must issue masks or cloth face coverings to their employees. In the event an employer is unable to provide masks they must provide the materials and CDC tutorial about how to create a cloth face covering. In workplace settings where employees are working alone in segregated spaces (i.e. cubicles with walls, private offices, etc.), employees may remove their masks. However, workers must wear a mask from the time they enter the building until the time they arrive at their cubicle/workstation, and at any time they are leaving their work station and moving around common areas. Employees working in congregate set- tings (i.e. open manufacturing floors, warehouses, areas open to the public, shared offices, or similar settings), should wear a face covering when they are at their workstation. Gov. Ned Lamont is worried that reopening Connecticut's economy too soon will result in a spike of COVID-19 cases. About three dozen HABCO employees have taken voluntary on-site COVID-19 tests. PHOTO | CT MIRROR, CLOE POISSON PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED

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