The likelihood of an employee testing positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) increases with every new case. By now, employers know that employees suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 must be kept away from the workplace. But, when should they be allowed back?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides two strategies for determining when an employee can stop home isolation and return to work: a symptom-based strategy and a test-based strategy. The CDC stresses that the decision on which strategy to use should be made in consultation with healthcare providers and local public health authorities knowledgeable about locally available testing resources
Symptom-Based Strategy. If it is determined that employees will not be tested to determine if they are still contagious, an employee can leave home and return to work only if:
- the employee has had no fever for at least 72 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medicine);
- the employee’s respiratory symptoms, like cough or shortness of breath, have improved; AND
- at least 10 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.
Test-Based Strategy. If it is determined that employees will be tested to determine if they are still contagious, an employee can leave home and return to work only if:
- the employee no longer has a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine);
- respiratory symptoms, like cough or shortness of breath, have improved; AND
- the employee tested negative for COVID-19 in two consecutive tests taken at least 24 hours apart.
Employers should utilize these strategies in conjunction with other preventative measures designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, such as actively encouraging sick employees to stay home, social distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, cough etiquette and the use of facial coverings.
Even though guidance issued by the CDC and other public health agencies typically comes in the form of recommendations rather than requirements, employers are strongly encouraged to follow applicable recommendations when it is reasonable to do so. Remember, under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, employers are required to furnish workplaces that are free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
Please contact us for additional information about protecting your business during the COVID-19 pandemic.