COVID-19 infections are on the rise, and this week, the CDC and the FDA approved a new booster, recommending that all eligible people get the new COVID vaccine (as well as a flu shot) this Fall. Are we heading back to mask mandates and quarantines? No. But with the recent uptick in infections, perhaps now is a good time to refresh your employees’ recollection on COVID-19 protocols as more employees are likely to become sick in the coming months – clearly COVID-19 is not going away. So here are some reminders summarized from the Department of Labor’s recent guidance for its employees.
If an employee has fever or chills, or if they have other new or unexplained symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as new or unexplained onset of cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, new or unexplained loss of taste or smell, or new or unexplained muscle aches, they should stay home.
Any individual who develops fever, chills, or other new or unexplained symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or who tests positive for COVID-19, while onsite during the workday should wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) and promptly leave the workplace.
Employees who are known to have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, should follow CDC guidance on testing. For 10 days after exposure, the individual should: monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; wear a high-quality mask or respirator while indoors at the office; and take extra precautions, such as increasing space and distance from others.
Any person with probable or confirmed COVID-19 should not go to the office. This includes people who have an initial positive diagnostic viral test for COVID-19, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, and people with symptoms of COVID-19, including people who are awaiting test results or have not been tested.
People who tested positive for COVID-19 and never developed symptoms can return to work after 5 full days following their positive COVID-19 test (day 0 being the day the individual was tested).
Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and had symptoms should return to working only after 5 full days from the onset of symptoms (day 0 being the day of symptom onset), once they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms are improving.
Once an employee has returned to work after having tested positive for COVID-19 and isolated consistent with CDC guidance on isolation, the individual should continue to take precautions consistent with CDC guidance for at least 10 full days after their first day of symptoms, or after the date of a positive viral test for asymptomatic individuals, including wearing a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others, avoiding eating and drinking around others, avoiding environments such as dining facilities, gyms, or other places where they may need to be unmasked around others, and avoiding being around people who they know are at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19. If at any point their COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, the individual should again refrain from entering the workplace.
Hopefully with clear communication of expectations, you will be able to keep your employees healthy and safe as we continue to deal with COVID-19.