October 19, 2020
6 Steps to Take if an Employee Contracts COVID-19

The thought of one of your employees contracting the COVID-19 virus may seem scary, but it is something that every employer should prepare for. 

Take the proper precautions to ensure your workplace and employees are safe. Put a plan in place in case someone does show symptoms or become infected with the coronavirus. When you have that plan ready, you can take action right away and reduce the risk of spreading the virus among more workers. 

Below, we’re sharing six steps along with updated facts and guidelines from the CDC. Follow these to protect your employees and your entire business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Send home any employee who has symptoms of COVID-19.

This goes even for an employee who is showing related symptoms but has not yet been diagnosed. Recommend that they contact a healthcare provider and quarantine at least 10 days (or according to your local/state laws). The CDC reports that individuals who show no symptoms may still be able to spread the virus during that time.

Clean and sanitize areas recently used by the employee.

Employers should perform cleaning and disinfection after anyone suspected or confirmed to have the coronavirus has been in the workplace. Areas to disinfect include:

  • Offices
  • Bathrooms
  • Common areas
  • Shared electronic equipment used by the sick person

Close off areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick individual. If other workers do not have access to these areas or items, wait 24 hours (or as long as possible) before cleaning and disinfecting. 

If the ill employee has not been in the workplace for more than seven days, additional cleaning and disinfection are not necessary. The CDC states that the virus has not been shown to survive on surfaces longer than this time. Outdoor areas do not need to be disinfected.

If the employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, notify coworkers who may have been exposed to them.

Employers should do their best to retrace the infected employee’s activity and notify any coworkers who might have had contact with the infected employee in the days before the diagnosis.

The CDC has determined that COVID-19 exposure risk begins when someone is within six feet of the infected person for 15 minutes or more. Infected individuals can spread the virus 48 hours before experiencing symptoms.

By notifying and following up with other employees immediately, you will provide a safe workplace and reduce the risk that more of your staff will be exposed. Employers should also be sure to follow requirements for notifying local or state health authorities of COVID-19 cases.

Additionally, consider informing any clients, vendors, and/or guests who may have been exposed to the diagnosed employee. Exposed individuals should isolate for 14 days. Certain essential workers (e.g.: healthcare, law enforcement, and food and agricultural workers) may be permitted to continue work following exposure to COVID-19 as long as they remain asymptomatic, continue to self-monitor, and wear a face mask. 

Keep the employee’s identity confidential.

The American Disabilities Act requires employees’ medical information remain confidential. This means employers must not share the identity of the employee diagnosed with COVID-19. Any medical or health information the employer gathers should be kept in a private folder that only critical human resources personnel can access.

Create a simple notification template now in order to be prepared if a case of COVID-19 does occur in your workplace.

Determine if the COVID-19 case is work-related.

The OSHA Guidance on Recording and Reporting COVID-19 Cases mandates that employers make a “reasonable and good faith inquiry” to find out if the case is work-related.

Employers must report the COVID-19 illness if they determine “it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a causal role” in the case. Basically, employers are expected to make a reasonable investigation by: 

  • Asking the employee how they believe they contracted the coronavirus;
  • Inquiring about the employee’s activities both in and out of the workplace while respecting his or her privacy; and
  • Reviewing the employee’s work environment for potential COVID-19 exposure.

Employers are NOT expected to undertake extensive medical inquiries. 

OSHA explained that a case of COVID-19 is likely work-related if there is a group of employees who test positive or if an employee tests positive after prolonged exposure to an infected customer or coworker. A case is unlikely to be work-related if the employee is the only worker to contract the virus and there is an alternative explanation.

Determine when the employee may return to work.

The CDC advises employers not to require a negative COVID-19 test before returning to work. Instead, they recommend following symptom-based guidelines for discontinuing isolation:

  • Those who never developed symptoms may discontinue isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive test.
  • Those with moderate to mild symptoms can end isolation if they meet the following conditions:
    • At least 10 days have passed since symptom onset and
    • At least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and 
    • Other symptoms have improved.
  • Those with severe symptoms may need to isolate for up to 20 days or longer after first showing symptoms.

Keep Your Business Safe & Successful During COVID-19

As we continue to learn about the coronavirus and how to combat it, guidelines and requirements continue to progress. Keep checking the BlueLion blog for updates and recommendations on everything you need to know as a business owner. 

If you need assistance managing your company through a case of COVID-19 or you simply want to prepare your team if a case does occur, contact our human resource experts today at 603-818-4131 or email us at info@bluelionllc.com. We are here to help you through these uncertain times!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.