Steps to Take When Your Employees Have Been Exposed to COVID-19
The COVID-19 virus has changed our workplace environments drastically. We all must now take action to be proactive in avoiding exposure for ourselves and our employees.
Per CDC guidelines, employers have an obligation to manage the potentially exposed workers’ return to work in ways that best protect the health of those workers, their co-workers, and the general public.
To do this, you first must determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and may need to take additional precautions.
Some additional precautions employers can take once notified of possible employee exposure are as follows:
- Inform employees of their possible close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone with confirmed or suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection in the workplace, but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)external icon.
- Most workplaces should follow the Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure. The most protective approach for the workplace is for exposed employees (close contacts) to quarantine for 14 days, telework if possible, and self-monitor for symptoms. This approach maximally reduces post-quarantine transmission risk and is the strategy with the greatest collective experience at present.
- Although CDC continues to recommend a 14-day quarantine, options are provided for shorter quarantine that may end after day 7 or after day 10 based on certain conditions. Alternatives to the 14-day quarantine are described in the Options to Reduce Quarantine for Contacts of Persons with SARS-CoV-2 Infection Using Symptom Monitoring and Diagnostic Testing. Shortening quarantine may increase willingness to adhere to public health recommendations. However, shortened quarantine may be less effective in preventing transmission of COVID-19than the currently recommended 14-day quarantine.
- Workplaces could consider these quarantine alternatives as measures to mitigate staffing shortages, but they are not the preferred options to mitigate staffing shortages. Workplaces should understand that shortening the duration of quarantine might pose additional transmission risk. Employers should also consider workplace characteristics when considering if this additional transmission risk is acceptable (e.g., level of community transmission, ability to maintain social distancing, proportion of employees at increased risk for severe illness, and priority for continuity of operations). Employers should counsel workers about the need to monitor for symptoms and immediately self-isolate if symptoms occur during the 14 days after their exposure and the importance of consistent adherence to all recommended mitigation strategies (e.g., mask wearing, social distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, and proper ventilation).
- Implementation of testing strategies can supplement measures to reduce transmission in the workplace. Repeated testing over time, also referred to as serial testing, may be more likely to detect infection among workers with exposures than testing done at a single point in time.
- Critical infrastructureexternal icon workplaces should follow COVID-19 Critical Infrastructure Sector Response Planning and guidance on Testing Strategy for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in High-Density Critical Infrastructure Workplaces after a COVID-19 Case is Identified.