The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance to increase the recommended isolation time for COVID-19 (coronavirus) illness in situations when sick individuals seem to have recovered but haven’t been tested to determine whether they’re still contagious. For individuals who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, home isolation is recommended for at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared. (This is a change from the 7 days previously recommended.) The 10-day isolation period is also recommended for employers (outside health care settings) who are wondering when it’s safe to allow sick employees to return to work. In addition to isolating at home for 10 days, the person must have been free of a fever for at least 72 hours (without using fever-reducing medication) and must have experienced an improvement in other symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath. The 10-day isolation period isn’t required, however, if the individual has two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart.
The standards are different for people who don’t have any symptoms. In general, for employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 but didn’t take a test and aren’t experiencing any symptoms, the CDC continues to recommend self-quarantine for 14 days (not 10). For employees who test positive for COVID-19 but don’t experience any symptoms, they can leave home if (1) at least 10 days pass after the date of their first positive test and they continue to have no symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath after the positive test; or (2) they have two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart. However, as we previously reported, the CDC suggests a more relaxed return-to-work standard for critical infrastructure workers who were exposed to COVID-19 but are asymptomatic. The CDC says those workers may return as long as the employer conducts a health screen before each shift, the employee self-monitors for symptoms under the supervision of the company’s occupational health program, the employee wears a face mask for 14 days after the last exposure, the employee stays at least 6 feet from others, and the company routinely cleans and disinfects common areas and equipment.
Tips For Employers: The CDC guidance on all things COVID-19 continues to change frequently. Be sure to bookmark their relevant webpages and check back every few days to ensure you’re relying on the latest guidance. Also, continue to watch our newsletter for substantive developments. If you have questions or need help with changes to your employment practices, contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.