By Rachel Bender Turpin
One of the many issues faced by employers in recent weeks has been what to do with employees who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19, but are currently asymptomatic. Fortunately, on April 8, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19. This guidance sets forth best practices for permitting critical infrastructure workers to continue working following a potential COVID-19 exposure. For purposes of the CDC’s interim guidance, an “exposure” includes household contact or having close contact (within 6 feet) with an individual with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, including close contact during the 48-hour period prior to the individual displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
In a nutshell, the CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 can continue working, provided they remain asymptomatic and take additional precautions to protect themselves, the workplace, and the community at large. These precautions include:
Pre-Screening. Employers should measure or require the employee to measure their temperature and assess their symptoms prior beginning work. Ideally, temperatures checks will occur prior to the employee’s entry into the work facility.
Regular Monitoring. As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, the employee can work, but should self-monitor their temperature and symptoms, under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program if they have one.
Wear a Mask. The employee should wear an employer provided or approved face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after their last exposure to COVID-19.
Social Distance. The employee should maintain social distance of at least 6 feet from others in the workplace as work duties permit.
Disinfect and Clean Work Spaces. The employer and the employee should routinely disinfect all areas in which the employee works, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared equipment, and common touch points.
If the employee becomes sick during the day, they should be sent home immediately and their workspace and equipment disinfected. The employer should then compile a list of everyone the ill employee had contact with for the two days preceding the employees’ development of symptoms. Any other employees who had close contact (within 6 feet) of the ill employee during this time should be considered exposed. The CDC recommends that employers implement this interim guidance in order to protect their employees and to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Additional information and a printable flyer that employers can post in the workplace can be found on the CDC’s website.