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What Should You Do if an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19?

Isolate. Send the employee home immediately or tell the employee to remain at home.

Identify possible exposure. Identify all individuals the employee worked with in close proximity in the previous 2 days and immediately send these employees home as well. Close proximity means within six feet for 15 minutes or more. You should also identify and contact any clients, customers or vendors the infected employee came into contact with. If you share a building or worksite, you should inform property management. The CDC recommends that exposed individuals quarantine for 14 days.

Protect employee privacy. When communicating possible exposure to employees and third parties, you cannot share confidential medical information including the name of the employee.

Clean and disinfect. As a precaution, you may also want to pursue a deep cleaning of your worksite, with a focus on disinfecting all areas used by the infected employee.

When Can Employees Return to Work?

The CDC recently updated its guidance for how long individuals who tested positive should isolate at home, shortening from 14 to 10 days for those with mild or no symptoms. It now recommends that ending isolation should be based on symptoms and not testing and follow these timelines:

  • Those who tested positive but did not develop symptoms can end isolation after 10 days.
  • Those who tested positive and have moderate to mild symptoms can end isolation after 10 days, if at least 24 hours have passed without a fever and other symptoms have improved.
  • Those who have severe symptoms may need to continue to isolate for 20 days Those who were exposed to the virus but were never tested and have no symptoms should quarantine for the full 14 days.

Previously the CDC recommended that employer required two negative tests from an employee who tested positive before that employee returned to work but with the symptoms-based approach now recommended, that is no longer necessary. Instead employers can follow the timeline described above. They may also want to ask the employee to sign a Self-Certification to Return to Work which documents this information. Anthros can provide this form to clients.

What about an employee that was exposed to COVID-19 but tested negative? The CDC still recommends this employee should quarantine for 14 days as tests do not always detect the virus in the first days of the infection.

Is the Employee Eligible for Paid Time Off Under FFCRA?

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide up to 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) if the employee is unable to work because of COVID-19.

 If the employee is able to telework, then no, the employee is not eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the FFCRA.

  • If the employee is not able to telework and is seeking a medical diagnosis or has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine, then yes, the employee can request EPSL.
  • Employers should document employee requests for paid leave under the FFCRA.

What Are the Reporting Requirements?

OSHA released COVID-19 reporting requirements for employers that obligate employers to make a reasonable determination if a positive COVID-19 case is work-related. How should an employer do this? Ask the employee how they believe they contracted COVID-19 and about activities outside of work that may have led to them contracting COVID-19 while being careful to respect the employee’s privacy.

You may be able to determine a case is work-related if: there are a number of cases among employees that work together, or the employee had prolonged contact or proximity to a customer or coworker who tested positive for COVID-19. However, OSHA recognizes that where there is wide community transmission, an employer may not be able to identify how the employee contracted COVID-19.

Review Efforts to Minimize Risk of Transmission (from OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19)

  • Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Employers should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase physical distance among and between employees
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment
  • Maintain routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment

If you have questions about how to protect employees and remain in compliance with COVID-related laws and regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to our team.

We are closely monitoring new guidance, legislation and regulatory updates. Please continue to check the Anthros blog for the latest news on COVID-19 and regulatory compliance.

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