As cities and states are phasing into the re-opening of businesses, organizations need to consider having guidelines in place to handle situations where an employee becomes infected with COVID-19. We have provided some helpful resources below to give you a jump start on this process.
Please note: the links and information below is pulled from the most recent data we could find. Many of these procedures are likely to change over time as new data and research is found. Please refer to the CDC for the most up to date guidelines and procedures.
Guidelines if an Employee Becomes Ill
The CDC recommends that any employees who “appear to have symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should be immediately separated from other employees, clients and visitors and sent home.”
The ill employee should be isolated if they cannot leave the workplace immediately. Make sure the employee puts on a disposable mask and gloves to avoid the further spread of germs in the workplace. Consider having a no-touch thermometer available. It is also a good idea to have eye protection for leadership staff handling the ill employee’s departure.
Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfecting guidelines after a suspected or confirmed case.
- Close off areas used by the person who is sick.
- Open outside doors and windows if possible to increase air circulation.
- Wait 24 hours or as long as is feasible before you clean or disinfect
- Make sure to clean any common areas used by the person who is sick, including bathrooms, kitchens, and shared equipment such as phones, office equipment, touch screens and keyboards.
- Vacuum the space if needed, but wait until the room or space is empty.
- Once the area is thoroughly disinfected, other employees can return to that area.
Follow your organization’s return to work policy regarding when they can return and whether working from home will be an option. If the employee does not get testing for COVID-19, they can return to work after:
- 3 days with no fever and
- Symptoms have improved and
- 10 days since symptoms first appeared
Develop protocols for alerting anyone who may have been in close contact with the employee (see below for tracking guidelines).
Guidelines and Resources for Tracking Exposure
As restrictions are eased, and organizations begin the transition back into the office, employers and employees may be vulnerable to a new collection of risks associated with potential COVID-19 exposure. One effective way to minimize your staff’s exposure to COVID-19 is the use of contact tracing and tracking.
COVID-19 exposure risk begins when someone is within 6 feet of the infected person for 15 minutes or more.
Act quickly. A quick reaction to a positive COVID-19 case can reduce the probability of a larger-scale outbreak among your staff.
Trace and monitor contacts of infected people. Notify them of their exposure. Target your communication to different groups:
- (1) Staff who was in direct contact with the infected individual
- (2) Staff who were on-site but not in direct contact
- (3) Staff and frequent visitors who were not on-site during the time in question
Support the quarantine of contacts. Help ensure the safe, sustainable and effective quarantine of contacts to prevent additional transmission.
Use digital tools. Adoption and evaluation of digital tools may expand reach and efficacy of contact tracers. Electronic contact tracing may be most useful for larger organizations with lots of interaction. Apple and Google have developed tracking apps, but they are still in the early stages of development and could take months to implement. Here are some other options for tracking apps/services that are ready to go right now:
- SaferMe – Tracks which workers have been in contact in the past, via their mobile device, so employers can respond to the safety of the team and customers in real time. More information can be found on their site here.
- University of Alabama at Birmingham COVID-19 Symptom Tracker – Allows individuals to check in daily to report their health status and symptoms. Tracks the progression of symptoms in communities in real time. Check out their website here.
Here are links to some of the resources we used in gathering information for this post:
- Contact Tracing for Employers (SHRM)
- Is Contact Tracing the Right Tool for Your Company to Help Combat COVID-19 Spread? (OH&S)