On April 8, 2020, the CDC announced new guidance for how to handle essential workers who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. To ensure continuity of operations, the CDC says the employer no longer needs to send the exposed employee home to self-quarantine for 14 days assuming the employee remains asymptomatic and does not otherwise test positive for COVID-19. Instead, the exposed employee can be allowed to continue to work if the employer can do the following:
- Pre-screen: The employer should take the employee’s temperature daily and assess for symptoms before the person is allowed to enter the facility.
- Self-monitor: The employee should be instructed to self-monitor for symptoms and not report to work if symptomatic.
- The employee should be required to wear a mask at all times at work for 14 days after the last known exposure. The employer can provide the mask or approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
- Maintain social distancing (6 foot distance) as work permits.
- Clean and disinfect work spaces routinely.
- Increase air exchange in building (if possible)
If the employee becomes symptomatic, the employer should send the person home immediately and treat him/her as a suspected COVID-19+ person.
Practically, it may be difficult to comply with these new guidelines because employers are struggling to find infrared thermometers to monitor employee temps. They are in short supply in many parts of the U.S., but the employer may have other options depending on the circumstances. Keep in mind that co-workers may also be more likely to call-in sick or not show up at work due to fears of contracting the virus if they knew one of their colleagues was exposed to someone with the virus and is still allowed to work. Hence the importance of keeping the information strictly confidential to the extent possible.
A link to the new guidance is here