Businesses across the country – and indeed the world – are slowly reopening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the virus is still with us, so the new challenge becomes how to handle suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the workplace. Your business should have a plan in place before reopening. It’s much better to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. With that in mind, here’s what to do if you have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace.
A Four-Step Plan For Handling Workplace COVID-19
1. Isolate, and Quarantine Confirmed Cases
Anyone confirmed to have COVID, or be suspected of having it, should stay at home until released by a public health official or physician. If the employee/employer can’t get access to a medical note confirming the release, then employees should follow CDC guidelines about self-isolation and when to end it. The CDC has specific guidelines depending on the displayed symptoms and whether or not the person tests positive. You can find the latest CDC advice here.
2. Talk to Employees Who Worked With Infected Workers
You need to talk to anyone who worked with or near (within six feet) of the infected employee for an extended period. This can be up to ten minutes for employees that work closely together or up to half an hour or longer for those who shared tools and items. Focus on people who worked with the employee within 48 hours of symptoms/positive test. The CDC recommends isolating anyone who worked close to the infected worker. Employees should self-isolate for 14 days at home. Self-isolating employees should monitor themselves for coronavirus symptoms, avoid contact with high-risk people, and consult a doctor if their symptoms worsen.
Please note the CDC developed separate guidelines for essential workers. If your business is considered an essential one, then asymptomatic employees who have been exposed directly to a confirmed COVID-19 case can continue to work, per specific guidelines. Asymptomatic employees are still a potential risk and should be monitored. Please also note that these guidelines change all the time. It’s essential that you stay updated on the latest developments and guidelines.
3. Clean and Disinfect the Workplace
The next step is to ensure that workplaces are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Cleaners should clean and disinfect everything in the workplace, such as offices, common areas, and bathrooms. Cleaners should focus on the areas and surfaces frequently used by the infected employee.
Please don’t neglect the safety of employees still working during and after the cleaning process. Employees should be informed about what chemicals are used during cleaning and the potential risks they present.
Aftertime-Bio is ready and waiting to help with your coronavirus cleanup. The technicians at Aftertime-Bio take every necessary precaution to protect themselves, your employees, and your customers against coronavirus infection. Count on us to give your workplace the deep clean it needs after suspected or confirmed workplace coronavirus cases.
4. Notify Employees
The CDC recommends informing employees about confirmed cases. Please be careful not to reveal confidential medical information about the case, such as the employee’s name. Also, inform employees about the steps you took to rectify the situation, including mandating employees who worked closely with the infected individual to self-isolate at home. Tell employees about your efforts to clean and sanitize the workplace to keep it safe, and remind employees to seek medical help if they exhibit coronavirus symptoms.
Informing employees is for more than their benefit. Failing to report the situation to employees could violate OSHA’s general duty clause. This clause guarantees a safe working environment for employees and mandates that employers do their best to provide such an environment.
What Coronavirus Testing Does the CDC Recommend?
The CDC’s current guidelines suggest not using antibody tests to determine if employees have coronavirus or can return to work. Antibody tests check blood samples for SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is the virus that causes coronavirus. Viral tests are better for detecting COVID and whether employees are still infected. These tests check a sample taken from the inside of the nose for SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The CDC recommends that employers make viral testing a part of the plan to prepare for, respond to, and control coronavirus cases. Please note that different states could have unique guidelines and priorities for workplace testing. Double-check the rules for your area before committing to anything.
When Can Infected Employees Return to Work?
The question of when employees can return to work is an important one. Employees should take all necessary precautions to prevent coronavirus spread first and foremost. Infected employees should not come back to the workplace until they meet the needs to end home isolation. Sick employees should also consult with a medical professional and be cleared to return before returning to work.
Employers shouldn’t ask employees to receive a negative test result or a medical note permitting them to return to work. These are not full guarantees that the employee is in the clear, and not every employee has access to these. What employees can do is stay home until they meet the criteria laid out by the CDC here.
Aftertime Bio Can Help
With a coronavirus vaccine in the works, it’s only a matter of time before the world slowly returns to normal. Many businesses have plans in place to open back up and resume business or have already done so. Those businesses should be aware of the risks of coronavirus infection. Companies must have a plan in place to deal with employees who get sick.
This plan should include a rigorous cleaning of infected surfaces and areas. Count on Aftertime-Bio to help with cleaning after a coronavirus case in the workplace. We have all the equipment and tools necessary to get the job done correctly.