An Employee Tests Positive for the Coronavirus: Steps to Take

You just got off the phone with an employee who explains that their healthcare provider has told them they likely have COVID-19, and the employee is exhibiting symptoms of the virus. What do you do now?

The steps you take now are critical. The goal is to both contain the virus to the extent possible and follow workplace requirements. Under OSHA, you have a duty to warn, and under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you must care for the health of your employees without disclosing the health information of any individual. You must first gather information, then take action.

Gather Information

Prepare to work with local health departments for contact tracing. You can find more information here and in the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Contact Tracing guidance.

Take Action

  • Instruct the infected employee to stay home for at least 10 days, at least 24 hours have passed with no fever without the use of fever reducing medicine, and other symptoms have improved.
  • Encourage the employee to call their health care provider should their condition worsen.
  • Inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Hire a cleaning company to clean the location following CDC guidelines.
  • Employees who test positive for COVID-19 (using a viral test, not an antibody test) should be excluded from work and remain in home isolation if they do not need to be hospitalized. Employers may need to work with local health department officials 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, telework if possible, and self-monitor for symptoms.
  • Remind any employee coming on-site to follow CDC protocols including social distancing, hand washing, and wearing a face covering.
  • Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider.