Ask the Expert-What to do When an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

By Randy Clayton on May 27, 2020
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Updated July 28, 2020

If you haven't already dealt with an employee who has informed you he/she tested positive for COVID-19, you still may. With businesses across the country gradually reopening their traditional workplaces, employers need to know how quickly they need to act and what steps to take should a confirmed COVID-19 case be reported among their workforce. Randy Clayton, Safety and Health Consultant here at Axcet HR, provides guidance in this Ask the Expert. 

Question: I have an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. What steps do I need to take in order to comply with any relevant guidelines and keep my staff and customers safe?

Answer: It's important to take prompt action in order to protect your employees and clients.

First, focus on the risk of transmission

First, focus on removing the employee from the workplace and mitigating the risk of transmission per CDC recommendations.

  1. Send the sick employee home or ask them not to report to work.
  2. Close off any area of your building that was used by the sick employee for extended periods of time. Wait 24 hours before you begin the process of cleaning and disinfection to prevent those performing that work from being exposed. Open windows and outside doors during the waiting period to help ventilate the area. 

Then, work on contact tracing

Contact the employee diagnosed with COVID-19 (if possible) to gather more information about their activities in the days leading up to their diagnosis. Start tracing contact beginning 48 hours prior to onset of symptoms, and ask about proximity (how far apart were you?), duration (for how long were you in close contact with this person?), and protection (were either of you wearing a face mask?).

Once you've determined the safest course of action for each employee or customer who was potentially exposed, begin contacting those people to notify them of the exposure and the recommendation (quarantine, self-monitoring, etc.). Again, be sure to partner with your local Department of Health in your efforts.

Comply with FFCRA

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) applies to both public and private employers who have less than 500 employees and extends emergency paid sick leave and extended FMLA to those required to quarantine (as well as those who miss work for other reasons during the pandemic).

Facilitate a safe return to work

The CDC's guidelines to facilitate a safe return to work for the positive employee: 

  • Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:
    • At least 10 days* have passed since symptom onset and
    • At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
    • Other symptoms have improved.
  • Persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 who never develop COVID-19 symptoms may discontinue isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

Most importantly, continue the measures recommended by your professional employer organization (PEO) to promote social distancing and prevent the spread of transmission in the workplace. If you don't have a PEO and have been navigating these uncertain waters on your own, reach out to us at Axcet HR Solutions today; we can help.

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Written by Randy Clayton

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