As of the date of this COVID19 Blog Posting, we have fortunately not received any information from our clients involving an employee that has received a confirmed positive COVID19 test result, but as it has widely been communicated in the media, a person may still have the COVID19 virus even if they are never tested or exhibit minimal or no COVID19 symptoms. We have received numerous inquiries from our essential business and operation1 employers regarding various “what if” or actual scenarios involving employees including the following:
- An employee exhibits COVID19 symptoms2 or has been diagnosed with COVID19 virus
- An employee who has been exposed to someone that has been confirmed to have COVID19 or has exhibited symptoms of COVID19
An employee who has been exposed to someone that has been exposed to another person who has been confirmed to have COVID19 or has exhibited symptoms of COVID19
1) An Employee is Diagnosed with or Exhibiting Symptoms2 of COVID19
Employees who report a COVID19 diagnosis or symptoms prior to work should be instructed to not report to work and if not yet diagnosed they should contact their medical provider to discuss their symptoms. If an employee develops COVID19 symptoms while at work they should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home. Do not identify by name the employee diagnosed or exhibiting symptoms of COVID19 or you could risk a violation of confidentiality laws. An employee diagnosed or exhibiting COVID19 symptoms should not return to work until they meet CDC Guidelines to End Home-Isolation as a Result of A COVID19 Diagnosis or Symptoms3.
Current CDC guidance on Community Related Exposure4 is that all employees who have worked in close contact5 with an employee diagnosed or exhibiting COVID19 symptoms within the 48 hours prior to that employee exhibiting symptoms should also be sent home and begin self-monitoring for 14 days or until they meet the CDC Guidelines to End Home-Isolation as a Result of A COVID19 Diagnosis or Symptoms3.
2) An Employee who has been in close contact5 to someone outside of work that has been confirmed to have COVID19 or has exhibited symptoms of COVID19
Current CDC guidance on Community Related Exposure4 would be if that employee had close contact5 with an another person diagnosed or exhibiting COVID19 symptoms within the 48 hours prior to that person beginning to exhibit COVID19 symptoms, the employee should be sent home, contact their medical provider and begin self-monitoring for 14 days or meet the CDC Guidelines to End Home-Isolation as a Result of A COVID19 or Symptoms3.
3) An Employee who has been in close contact5 to someone outside of work who has been in close contact5 with someone who was confirmed to have COVID19 or has exhibited symptoms2 of COVID19.
Current CDC guidance on Community Related Exposure4 would be to continue self-monitoring for COVID19 symptoms2, continue to practice social distancing and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
Note: Ultimately in regards to the employer’s responsibility in protecting employees from COVID19 exposure in the workplace as specified in the OSHA General Duty Clause6; it is to furnish to each of their employees a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees, along with being in compliance with any Federal, State or Local regulations. Thus, each employer should take the actions they deem most appropriate for the safety and health of their employees.
1 Essential Businesses and Operations
If you have determined your business to be an “essential business and operation” you should continue to assess your operational requirements deemed necessary to conduct “Minimum Basic Operations”, along with continued implementation of the “Social Distancing Requirements” as specified in the Governors “Stay at Home Order” (See link below for Ohio’s).
2 COVID19 Symptoms
These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure (based on the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses).
- Shortness of breath
3 CDC Guidelines to End Home-Isolation as a Result of A COVID19 Diagnosis or Symptoms
The CDC has established three options for determining when a person may end home isolation, using either (1) a time-since-illness-onset option, (2) a time-since-recovery option, or (3) a test-based option.
- Time-since-illness-onset and time-since-recovery strategy (non-test-based strategy): Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and are directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
- At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
- At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
- Test-based strategy (simplified from initial protocol): Previous recommendations for a test-based strategy remain applicable. However, a test-based strategy is contingent on the availability of ample testing supplies and laboratory capacity as well as convenient access to testing. Persons who have COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
- Resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications;
- Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
- Negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized molecular assay for COVID-19 from at least two consecutive nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected ≥24 hours apart (total of two negative specimens).
- Individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who have not had any symptoms may discontinue home isolation when at least seven days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test and have had no subsequent illness.
4 CDC Guidance on Community Related Exposure
5 Close Contact as Defined by the CDC
1) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time (Recommendations vary on the length of time of exposure from 10 minutes or more to 30 minutes or more; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health care waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case.)
– or –
2) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on); if such contact occurs while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment or PPE (e.g., gowns, gloves, NIOSH-certified disposable N95 respirator, eye protection), criteria for PUI consideration are met.
6 OSHA General Duty Clause
Note: This Employer Guidance on COVID19 Diagnosed or Exposed Employees is intended as an employer reference guide only and not intended to serve as either legal or medical advice. Any legal questions should be directed to legal counsel and medical questions should be directed to an appropriate medical provider.