Responding to Positive COVID-19 Test Results in the Workplace

You’ve taken all available steps to protect your staff and maintain a safe workplace.  But, what do you do if your employee reports to work with COVID-19 symptoms or reports a positive test result?  Based on the current Center for Disease Control Guidelines for Business and Employees, the following steps should be undertaken:

The immediate response

  1. Any employee exhibiting symptoms (fever, cough, short of breath, etc.) should notify their supervisor and stay home. If the employee begins exhibiting symptoms at work, they should be separated from other employees, customers, vendors and sent home.
  2. Sick employees should not return to work until all of the criteria to stop at home isolation have been met and they have conferred with their healthcare providers / local health departments. These include being fever free for 3 days (without medication to assist), improved respiratory symptoms, and at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared or 2 negative test results in a row, at least 24 hours apart.
  3. If an employee is well but has a sick family member, they should notify their supervisor and follow the CDC recommend precautions (limiting contact with sick member, wear a mask around sick person, disinfect home space often, and monitor their own health for symptoms).

Protecting other Employees:

  1. If an employee tests positive with COVID-19, immediately identify all co-workers the affected employee was within close contact with (within 6 feet of the infected employee for a prolonged period of time). You should inform all employees of their possible exposure. However, you must maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and not disclose any personally identifiable information of the employee testing positive.  All employees should be instructed to self-monitor for symptoms.
  2. You should then identify where the infected employee worked, as well as any individuals, both inside the workplace and any work related individuals outside the building with whom the infected employee came into contact during the 14 days prior to testing positive or first displaying symptoms.
  3. You should notify also affected individuals and instruct anyone who came into contact with the sick employee within the 14 day period to go home and self-isolate for 14 days, working remotely if possible.
  4. If an exposed employee tests positive but has no symptoms, they may return to work after 10 days since the test provided they remain symptom free.
  5. Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation (see above) are met.  Although critical infrastructure employees may continue to work, they must remain asymptomatic and additional precautions must be implemented.
  6. If you are an OSHA covered business, you must follow all current OSHA record keeping requirements and record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on your OSHA 300

Continuing Business

Based on the size of the workplace and the potential breadth of exposure, you should consider closing immediately, coordinating with employees to work remotely if possible.  If closing is not an option, you should insure regular enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the facility, following CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations It is also critical to develop policies for worker protection and provide training to all cleaning staff on site prior to providing cleaning tasks. Training should include when to use personal protective equipment, what PPE is necessary, how to properly wear, use, and take off PPE, and how to properly dispose of PPE.  Employers must ensure workers are trained on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace in accordance with appropriate OSHA standards.

If you are facing a positive COVID-19 test result or related issues in the workplace, please schedule an appointment with one of the attorneys at Waldron & Schneider to discuss these concerns.        

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