One of your employees just tested positive for COVID-19. What should you do? How should you and your other employees handle this situation?
Below are some steps to take based of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here is their full page of recommendations.
Role of Business Leaders
As a business leader, it is your responsibility to have a plan in place before you or an employee tests positive for COVID-19. Taking the steps to proactively prepare and train your employees on how to handle this scenario will alleviate strain on your office and business procedures.
A solid plan includes:
- Preventive measures at home or at the office to stop the possible spread of disease.
- Maintaining healthy business operations by providing employees with resources to fulfill job responsibilities while practicing social distancing and preventive measures.
- Protocols for infected and non-infected employees in the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
Since this article is specifically on what to do if there is a positive case among your employees, we will focus on the steps you can take to prepare for this scenario.
What to do if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection
From the CDC:
Take action if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection:
In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility.
If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee has been in the facility, close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:
- Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
- During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.
If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility.
Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations:
- Clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.
- To disinfect surfaces, use products that meet EPA criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2external icon, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface.
- Always wear gloves and gowns appropriate for the chemicals being used when you are cleaning and disinfecting.
- For each product you use, consult and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
Determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and may need to take additional precautions:
- Inform employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Most workplaces should follow the Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure and instruct potentially exposed employees to stay home for 14 days, telework if possible, and self-monitor for symptoms.
- Critical infrastructure workplaces should follow the guidance on Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19. Employers in critical infrastructure also have an obligation to manage potentially exposed workers’ return to work in ways that best protect the health of those workers, their co-workers, and the general public.
Additional information from the Utah Health Department
Employees who came into close contact up to 2 days before the employee tested positive, or first got sick, should quarantine for 14 days. Close contact means an employee was closer than 6 feet or 2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) for 15 minutes or longer to the person who tested positive.
Inform these employees that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and should quarantine. You need to be very careful to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the employee who tested positive.
For Utah businesses, the Utah Health Department has published this business packet with detailed information and informative examples. As other states publish similar content, we will update this post with resources.
EMI Health coverage clarification
Those employees who have been in close contact as defined above would likely be requested to get tested. If they use an accredited facility, the test would be covered by the plan without cost sharing (up to the plan’s Maximum Allowed Charges).
Employees who have not been in close contact as defined above do not need to quarantine or get tested.
As we all navigate through this time, take the opportunities to reach out to your coworkers, care for one another, and keep each other safe.