Business & Employers
Handling a COVID+ Case in the Workplace: What should you expect when an employee tests positive?
The Berrien County Health Department receives a notification whenever a Berrien County resident tests positive for COVID-19. This is when the important process of case investigation and “contact tracing” begins. Health Department staff will call the person who tested positive to notify them of their positive test result and provide detailed instructions about isolating at home while they get better from their illness. Lastly, they will ask the person who tested positive for all of their close personal contacts from 48 hours prior to when they started to feel symptoms until the day they were diagnosed. “Close contacts” are defined as those people who have been within 6ft of the COVID+ person for at least 10 minutes or more. With this information, the Health Department is then able to inform all of those close contacts about their exposure risk, provide instruction about quarantining and self-monitoring for symptoms, and potential testing.
As more people physically return the workplace, people who test positive for COVID-19 are increasingly likely to have close contacts that are coworkers. After contacting the COVID+ person, BCHD will then contact their employer to inform them of their employee’s status and provide guidance on what steps they can take to keep employees, vendors, and patrons healthy.
The Health Department will continue with the contact tracing process by interviewing all the COVID+ employee’s close contacts and will ask them to quarantine for 14 days while they monitor for symptoms to potentially develop.* If the close contacts are feeling symptoms of COVID-19, they will be asked to isolate and be recommended for testing.
Throughout the investigation, we may ask for information, especially regarding staff and possibly customers. This will be used only to aid our investigation and prevent transmission of illness. Confidentiality of this information is a high priority for public health.
Collection of this type of information is routine public health practice and allowed under the Michigan Public Health Code 333.2433 & 333.2446.
*Healthcare workers and other critical infrastructure employees are not automatically required to self-quarantine for 14 days if asymptomatic. More guidance will be provided in these situations.
How can employers help out with this process?
- Maintain clear records of when and where staff work. Assist by sharing information with the Health Department about:
- Contacts of the COVID+ case
- Other people who may have symptoms
- Be ready to potentially respond to multiple Health Departments, as each Health Department follows-up with cases or contacts that live in their jurisdiction
- Strongly consider giving a timely general notification about of the case to staff and potentially customers
- Don’t share case name, details, or health information
Best practices for employers to consider:
Consider the controls that you would want in place to protect your team and the productivity of your business if an employee is infected with COVID-19. Knowing that close contacts would be excluded from the workplace for up to 14 days, it’s is very important to ensure that distancing, sanitation and hygiene, access control, and PPE usage procedures are firmly established. These could prevent entire team from being on quarantine if one worker is ill.
1. Create an environment that allows employees to be 6 feet away from other individuals and practice good hand hygiene.
2. Monitor the health status of employees daily. Ask employees to attest to the lack of COVID-19 symptoms daily.
3. Exclude sick employees from work. Attempt to remove barriers that may prevent a sick employee from staying home. Send home employees who develop symptoms of respiratory illness while at work.
4. Follow recommendations for return to work, including not requiring a doctor’s note or test result to return. Due to prioritization of specimen testing supplies, healthcare providers are not able to order tests for work clearance. Employees (non-healthcare) who have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 should not return to work until:
- At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since symptoms have resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications, and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); AND
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, or since the first positive COVID-19 test, if tested.
5. Group employees together, to the extent possible, to reduce the number of coworkers each employee has close contact with. This may mean cohorting individuals on a specific shift or at a particular worksite.
Read more best practice guidance at Michigan’s Business Response Center here: https://www.blmcovid19.com/