Written By: Oscar Soto, Esq
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the CDC (Center for Diseases Control) have published and revised guidelines on how to proceed if an employee shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19.
I. Immediate Response
If an employee shows symptoms or has tested positive with COVID-19, employer should require employee to self-isolate and monitor symptoms as well as consult with his/her doctor immediately.
In most situations you do not need to shut down the workplace. However, do close off any areas that could be contaminated or were used for an extended period of time by infected persons. The CDC recommends waiting 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize others from being exposed to respiratory droplets. Any member or staff who has a COVID-19 patient in his home must inform his supervisor so that the Employer can take proper safety measures.
II. Alert Other Employees
If a person has tested positive for COVID-19 it is important to conduct Contact Tracing. Ask the infected employee to disclose his coworkers’ names who might have come in close contact with him/her to identify individuals who worked within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more with the infected employee for the duration of the 48 hours before the symptoms were discovered.
Moreover, your message to other employees should maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). For instance, it can be communicated as under:
“One individual has tested positive for the corona virus in our organization on today’s date. The individual is currently self-isolating. The individual has acknowledged three of his colleagues with whom he had a close contact. If you have not already been contacted, then you are not one of them. We have disinfected the common areas and areas where sick employee was in contact for an extended period of time. If you have questions about COVID-19, please reach out to us or visit the CDC website. The company is here to support and guide you through these difficult times.”
III. Clean the Workplace Environment
Carry out enhanced cleaning and disinfection of your establishment in the event of COVID-19 infection, whether confirmed or suspected. Employers should train the cleaning staff properly, for instance, when to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), how to use and dispose of it, etc.
IV. Record and Report the Confirmed Cases
Recording and reporting a positive case in the workplace should be carried out with precision and care. You need to document important details about the employee who has the viral infection. You can ask the employee how he might have contacted it. You can discuss his work and out-of-work activities that may have led him to get infected. While doing this, employee’s privacy should not be breached. If you fear that there might be potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, you can assess the employee’s work environment and make decisions accordingly.
V. Decide Who is Eligible for Paid Time Off
Affected employees and employees who are potentially exposed to the virus may also be eligible for emergency paid sick leave, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
VI. Criteria to Return to Workplace
Sick employees should follow CDC guidelines and not return to work until they have met the following CDC recommendations:
For employees that had symptoms:
· At least 72 hours since recovery of fever without use of medication and improvement of respiratory symptoms (coughs, shortness of breath, etc.)
· At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Or has tested negative to two RT-PCR tests for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.
For asymptomatic individuals:
· Wait at least 10 days until last date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test assuming that no symptoms developed.
· Or wait until individual has obtained two negative RT-PCR tests results for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.
It is imperative to have a plan established ahead of time. Training employees and supervisors on procedures and guidelines should be consistent with current guidance from the CDC and OSHA.
REV. SLG 08/04/2020
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