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What is an employer supposed to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19? 

what should an employer do if employee tests positive for covid-19 coronavirus

–The County of San Luis Obispo Health Department recently developed guidelines for employers dealing with COVID-19 in the workplace. Below are questions and answers and guidance from the health officials:

The County Public Health Department contacts any San Luis Obispo County resident who tests positive for COVID-19 to provide guidance and next steps, including asking them and their close contacts to stay home from work to recover and to protect others from getting sick. This situation can be stressful and overwhelming, and it is important that you support your employees as they take the necessary steps to keep your workplace safe and healthy. The guidance outlined here is based on CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to COVID-19.

If an employee tests positive, am I obligated to notify staff?

In most cases as an employer, you are not obligated to notify your staff. Individuals who have been in close contact with the infected person will be notified directly by Public Health. If the Public Health Department would like your help notifying others, they will contact you directly.

When can employees with COVID-19 return to work?

Employees who tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms can return to work after 10 days have passed since their positive test. Employees who think or know they had COVID-19 and had symptoms can return to work after:
• Three days with no fever (and no use of fever-reducing medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen); and
• Respiratory symptoms have improved (e.g. cough and shortness of breath); and
• 10 days since symptoms first appeared

When can close contacts with someone with COVID-19 return to work?

Close contacts can return to work after 14 days since their last contact with the infected person.

Identifying exposed employees and next steps

Inform employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); do not disclose the name of the person who is sick with COVID-19. 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.

Testing employees for COVID-19

Employers can offer testing opportunities and encourage employees to get tested. However, employers cannot require employees to get tested for COVID-19. Employers may direct employees to stay home when sick. Employees with symptoms can return to work after three days have passed with no fever (and no fever-reducing medicine), respiratory symptoms have improved, and 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms.

How can I support sick employees who are at home?

Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices:
• Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies.
• The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.
• Employers with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for 100% tax credit for Families First Coronavirus Response Act COVID-19 paid leave provided through December 31, 2020, up to certain limits.
• Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all their employees should consider drafting non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.
• Employers should not require a COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work.
• Connect employees to employee assistance program (EAP) resources, if available, and community resources as needed. Employees may need additional social, behavioral, and other services, for example, to help them manage stress and cope.

Working with public health department

The County Public Health Department is notified whenever a resident of San Luis Obispo County tests positive for COVID-19. A contact tracer will notify anyone who was in close contact with an individual who tested positive. This could include a supervisor or coworkers. If an employee notifies you that they tested positive, you do not need to notify Public Health, but you should begin collecting this important information right away:
• The last day the employee worked; and
• A list of people who may have been in close contact (within six feet for at least 15 minutes) with the employee while at work.

Minimizing potential or additional exposure of COVID-19

In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. If it has been less than seven 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 the potential for other employees to be 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 to routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces in the facility.


Additional resources

Businesses and Workplace Resources on
CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Diseases 2019
CDC Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities
CDC Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19
Cal/OSHA Interim General Guidelines on Protecting Workers from COVID-19
County of San Luis Obispo COVID-19 Information

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