Florida-based commercial real estate firm Crocker Partners has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a new position within its organization for a director of environmental health, to help it develop a program that’s designed to keep its employees healthy.

Dr. Walter Okoroanyanwu, who is a medical professional with experience in infectious diseases, told the Palm Beach Post his mission is to “create and maintain a work environment that limits the chance of spreading COVID-19”.

Florida has seen an explosion of coronavirus cases in the last month, and Crocker Partners says that without a statewide mandate to reduce the spread of the virus, employers have been left to fend for themselves when it comes to best practices to keep their businesses up and running while maintaining employee safety.

Crocker Partners counts more than 30,000 employees who work for its leased properties. It has taken the pandemic seriously, and has been requiring both tenants and visitors to wear masks in common areas at all times.

Crocker Managing Partner Angelo Bianco told The Palm Beach Post that by hiring Okoroanyanwu as director of environmental health, the company will be able to shape new guidelines guided by science. Okoroanyanwu will review technical reports by scientists about ongoing research on COVID-19 and direct new building protocols and wellness programs. Okoroanyanwu also is looking into rapid tests from Abbott Laboratories that can deliver results within an hour to building tenants who may have the virus.

In addition, he has already implemented several new measures, including the use of technology to sanitize and disinfect ventilation systems within Crocker’s buildings.

“Supplementing the traditional office building staff with medical, health, wellness, and environmental experience will soon be commonplace,” Bianco said.

Crocker Partners isn’t alone in hiring a medical specialist. The Miami Dolphins NFL team has done the same, hiring an infectious disease specialist to create a safety program for its players and staff. And Okoroanyanwu said it’s likely that other real estate firms will follow suit.

“This is an innovative agenda here, and I see it as a stepping stone for other commercial developers to do the same thing,” Okoroanyanwu said.

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