What to Do If An Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

If you have an employee who tests positive for COVID-19, there are a number of steps you should take to ensure compliance with the various federal, state and local requirements. Detailed below some of the current recommendations for employers:

CDC Recommendations

The CDC does not always recommend a facility shut down because of a positive COVID-19 test, however, you should close off all areas in which the infected employee worked for any extended periods of time.

You should follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations before re-opening these areas:

  • Clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.
  • To disinfect surfaces, use products that meet EPA criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface.
  • Be sure to follow the instructions on the product labels to ensure safe and effective use of the product.
  • You may need to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the setting and disinfectant product you are using.

Employers should also determine which, if any, additional employees may have been exposed to the virus. Employers should inform these employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality by not providing any identifying information about the individual who tested positive as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should be excluded from work. Employers should provide education to employees on what to do if they are sick (information provided here).

Employers may need to work with their local health department to determine which employees may have had close contact with the employee with COVID-19 and who may need to take additional precautions, including exclusion from work and remaining at home. Most workplaces should follow the Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure and instruct potentially exposed employees to stay home for 14 days, work remotely if possible, and self-monitor for symptoms.

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should not return to work until they have met all criteria to discontinue home isolation:

  • At least 10 days since symptom onset, AND
  • At least 24 hours since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, AND
  • That any additional symptoms have improved AND they have consulted by a healthcare provider.

For more information regarding CDC guidelines and recommendations, you can visit their General Business Frequently Asked Questions here.

OSHA and Workers’ Compensation

OSHA has guidelines in place for employers based on their industry and assumed risk-level of exposure to COVID-19. Guidelines by industry can be viewed here. OSHA refers to the CDC recommendations listed above but also reminds employers that they have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees. This makes cleaning and disinfecting and other preventative measures even more important for businesses to implement.

In some instances, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis may result in employee coverage under workers’ compensation. If you are unsure of whether a diagnosis should be reported as a workers’ compensation incident, you should confirm with your workers’ compensation carrier to make a determination based on the state and local workers’ compensation rules as well as the particular situation for the ill employee.

State and Local Requirements

Requirements for employers vary greatly based on the state, county, or even the city in which they are employing workers. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements in each area that you have employees working to ensure compliance.

Families First Coronavirus Emergency Paid Sick Leave Requirement

Employers with less than 500 employees must provide up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave to an employee under the Families First Act. This paid time off is separate from regular paid time off that may be offered by employers and payment of these wages is reimbursed to employers in the form of a federal payroll tax reduction. Detailed information regarding this paid leave (as well as other paid leave required under the Families First Act related to COVID-19) is available in our previous blog post here