The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued interim guidance for employers who are considering testing employees for COVID-19.
Workers with COVID-19 symptoms should be referred to a healthcare provider for evaluation and potential testing. Waiting for test results prior to returning to work is preferred to keep potentially infected workers out of the workplace.
Viral testing may be recommended for close contacts (people who have been within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more) of persons with COVID-19. Close contacts could be an employee whose family member has tested positive.
Positive test results using a viral test indicate that the employee has COVID-19 and should not come to work and isolate at home. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
Viral testing of workers without symptoms or suspected exposure to Covid-19 may be useful to detect COVID-19 in workplaces where physical distancing is difficult and other precautions are difficult to achieve. The CDC is finalizing recommendations for a new quarantine period, likely between seven and ten days after potential exposure to COVID-19, with a test to ensure a person is negative for COVID-19. The exact time period and what type of test a person would be given to exit quarantine are still under consideration.
The CDC notes that return to work for employees with suspected or confirmed infections should be made in the context of clinical and local circumstances. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification tests have detected the virus in some people’s respiratory samples after they have recovered from COVID-19.
Also, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are permitted to require a doctor’s note to verify that employees are healthy and able to return to work. However, as a practical matter, employers should be aware that healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and may not be able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.
In such cases, employers should consider not requiring a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness, can recover at home without medical care, and can follow CDC recommendations to determine when to discontinue self-isolation and return to work.
A test-based strategy is no longer recommended to determine when to discontinue home isolation for those who have tested positive, except in certain circumstances. Health care providers are advised to focus on symptoms.
For persons who never develop symptoms, isolation and other precautions can be discontinued 10 days after the date of their first positive.
Visit Coronavirus Workplace Resources for a link to CDC guidance.