COVID-19: Resources for the Wall and Ceiling Industry

May 2020

"The risk of recession over the next three to six months is arguably more elevated than at any period since 2007,” said economist Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group, Inc. during the 2020 Modular Building Institute’s World of Modular conference in early March. “I knew this period of fragility would leave us susceptible to a trigger, but I didn’t know what that trigger would be. Now we know.”

COVID-19 is the invisible enemy we never saw coming. When we were all watching Wall Street and looking for signs of another recession, this frightening coronavirus sneaked up from behind. Sure, the signs were there. We saw it start in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, and we watched with anticipation and anxiety as it slowly crawled across the globe. But would it really get to North America? Oh yes. Definitely. No wall system could keep it from crossing our borders. It’s here, and from coast to coast, we have all learned new ways of living and working.
    
Thanks to technology and communications, people around the world have access to information that can help them prepare for the disease, recognize the symptoms and so much more. We are also finding new ways to lighten the mood with hilarious memes and funny tales of learning how to telecommute without losing your mind.
    
But you can’t believe everything you hear, nor can you believe everything you see on the internet. Beyond that, keeping up with the new details being provided every day can be daunting. So we did some research to bring you this article, which weeds out the duplication and hones in on the specifics.

Unfortunately we could not include all the available information, but here is a quick summary of information provided by just some of the most trusted industry sources.

AWCI’s COVID-19 Resource Center
To help keep members of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry healthy, informed and working safely, AWCI created AWCI’s COVID-19 Resource Center. This page is regularly updated and contains quick links to valuable documents, videos, webinars, news and other resources related to COVID-19 and the construction industry.
    
Sources include a number of industry partners, alliances and regulatory and government agencies such as the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, ConsensusDocs, the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
If you’re not sure where to start your research, consider AWCI’s COVID-19 Resource Center. (Note that most of the contacts listed below can be accessed from AWCI’s resource center.)

Construction Industry Safety Coalition
The Construction Industry Safety Coalition, of which AWCI is a member, finalized the “Construction Industry Safety Coalition Recommendations: COVID-19 Exposure Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Plan for Construction.” Available in English and Spanish, the plan outlines the steps that every construction employer and employee can take to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
    
The plan describes how to prevent worker exposure, protective measures to be taken on the job site, personal protective equipment and work practice controls to be used, cleaning and disinfecting procedures and what to do if a worker becomes sick. Included in the plan are two letters: one for essential industry employees who are traveling to construction job sites, and an employee notification to be used if a confirmed case of COVID-19 occurs at work. There is also a COVID-19 checklist for employers and employees and a COVID-19 toolbox training talk. Any construction company owner can download the plan from awci.org/covid-19 and customize it to fit their company’s needs.

U.S. Small Business Administration
When this was being written, small business owners in all U.S. states and territories were eligible to apply for a low-interest loan due to coronavirus. You can apply for a disaster loan from the SBA at www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19.

Handwashing Education from the CDC
Of course it’s more than “wash your hands for two minutes,” but thanks to COVID-19, many people have learned that they haven’t been properly washing their hands for years. They may have washed enough to remove a top layer of germs, but if they didn’t wash in the right way, getting all the nooks and crannies, and for the right amount of time, well, you’re still dirty.
    
But did you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a section on their website that is all about handwashing? They do! At www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html you’ll find training tips, posters and promotional materials, videos, scientific data and many other educational elements that will answer all your handwashing questions.

ConstructionDive.com
ConstructionDive.com has been updating its project map tracker, which includes updates about coronavirus closures. Shutdowns by project, city and state are provided, as is much more information about how the virus is affecting construction throughout the United States.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
As you would expect, OSHA’s Coronavirus Resources website is loaded with information designed to help you stay healthy and prevent worker exposure to COVID-19. You will find guidance, standards, posters, medical information, control measures and more on www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19.

ConsensusDocs
The ConsensusDocs COVID-19 Contract and Construction Law Resource Center has several free downloads: Sample Notice Letter; Stay-At-Home Orders and Work Restrictions; Essential Worker Certification Card Template; Sample ConsensusDocs 200 Force Majeure Language and ConsensusDocs 200.1 Escalation Addendum; Guidance for COVID-19 Contract Terms and Book on Best Practices for COVID-19 Construction Claims. You’ll find it all within www.consensusdocs.org. (Remember that because AWCI is a member of the ConsensusDocs coalition, AWCI members receive discounts on ConsensusDocs contracts and resources.)

AGC of America
AGC’s website offers information on COVID-19’s impacts on the economy and taxes; on labor, human resources and paid leave; on the infrastructure and more. You’ll find their information at www.agc.org/coronavirus.

American Subcontractors Association
The ASA’s “Coronavirus Resource Guide” is a free download from www.asaonline.com/covid-19-information. Some of the materials are reserved for ASA members only, but quick links to other resources are available to all.

Associated Builders and Contractors
ABC has coronavirus resources for employers and chapter operations as well as emergency preparedness and response resources. See their offerings on abc.org.

AWCI’s Legal Counsel
Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter, based in Columbus, Ohio, is AWCI’s legal counsel. While much of their website’s COVID-19 information may seem specific to Ohio, it is pertinent to all of us. For example, since early March, the company has taken part in virtual town hall meetings that give updates on the Ohio business community, advise on practical strategies to preserve cash flow, perspectives on legal, accounting and insurance issues and a Q&A. Recordings of each meeting are available on their site.
    
Also, Don Gregory, AWCI’s general counsel, provides legal advice to the construction industry about the coronavirus in his blog. Gregory addresses excusable delays, compensation recovery and whether or not the AIA A201 will provide monetary relief during the coronavirus emergency.
    
You will find it all at www.keglerbrown.com.

The Center for Construction Research and Training
In addition to links to other sources, CPWR’s website includes a guide on COVID-19 along with a toolbox talk. Both are available in English and Spanish. Go to cpwr.com to access these free downloads.

National Association of Home Builders
The NAHB has a “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response” section on its website, www.nahb.org. Along with pertinent information on executive orders and virus news, the site features a weekly survey of association members. The weekly survey is used to gauge how the coronavirus is impacting the housing industry.

AWCI Webinars
AWCI has hosted webinars regarding COVID-19 and its effects on industry contractors, manufacturers and suppliers. All can be viewed for free on AWCI’s YouTube channel. (Alternatively, you can go to AWCI’s COVID-19 Resource Center and find links in the “Webinars” section.)

DOL Provides Guidance on FFCRA
On March 25, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced its first round of published guidance to provide information to employers about meeting their requirements to offer emergency paid sick leave and paid family medical leave offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which took effect April 1.
    
The guidance, provided in fact sheets and a questions-and-answers document, addresses critical questions such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage, how small businesses can obtain an exemption, how to count hours for part-time employees and how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law.
    
Visit www.dol.gov/coronavirus to learn more.

Executive Orders
Dorsey & Whitney LLC, a law firm with locations across the United States and in Canada, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region (www.dorsey.com), is keeping track of all the executive orders issued by state in their online Coronavirus Resource Center. Updated regularly, the site also provides coronavirus updates from around the world “to provide information that may be helpful in decision making.”

Remember that your local and state governments may have specific instructions that can affect your business operations. First and foremost, follow the guidelines and orders that come from national and local governments. And take care of your employees. Do what you have to do to stay healthy, and together we will flatten the curve and bring and end to this pandemic.