Many practices are starting to come to the realization that one day one of their employees may inform them that they have tested positive for COVID-19. So, as an employer, what should you do when this happens?
Recent literature and media reports have suggested that the virus has a 14-day incubation period, which is why you most likely have heard of a 14-day self-quarantine recommendation. But in theory, this could mean that the actual window would be 28 days since some reports state that individuals can be contagious without showing symptoms.
Based off of this logic, if you have an employee come to you on March 15th to inform you that they tested positive for the virus then anyone they came into contact with from March 1st on may be at risk for exposure to the virus.
With this in mind, here are some steps to consider taking when you are informed by an employee that they have tested positive for COVID-19:
- If an employee becomes infected with COVID-19 or is exposed to COVID-19…
- can the employee work from home during their self-quarantine? Some management team members can perform their tasks remotely and some employees can assist with telemedicine appointments remotely.
- if the employee cannot work from home, then will the employee be paid for the 14-day self-quarantine?
- if the practice is not going to compensate the employee while on a 14-day quarantine will the employee be allowed to utilize their accrued sick time, vacation time, and/ or Paid Time Off (PTO)?
Keep in mind that in some states, employees who are being self-quarantined may qualify for state disability and/or FMLA (if you have 50 or more employees) and/ or state mandate Family Leave Acts.
Your Infected Employee
- Instruct your infected employee to stay home for at least a 14-day self-quarantine. Keep in mind that depending on the employee’s symptoms their health care provider may recommend for the employee to be quarantined for longer than 14-days.
- Assure the employee that their name will not be disclosed when informing the team of their possible exposure to the virus. This will ensure that you are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- In order to determine the window of who may have been exposed to the virus within the practice, ask the infected employee when they tested positive for COVID-19. This date will help you determine the 14-day window prior to their positive test and will also help you identify the employee’s potential return date from self-quarantine.
For example: If the employee tested positive on March 15, 2020, any employee that may have come into contact with the infected employee or the area they worked in from March 1st through the 14th (first 14-day window) could be at risk for contracting the virus. The second 14-day window would be from March 15th through March 29th for the infected employee’s self-quarantine. Based off the employee’s health care provider’s recommendation this second waiting period could be extended.
- Ask the infected employee to identify all areas of the office that they were present in during the first 14-day window (from the above example March 1st– March 14th). These areas will need to be professionally sanitized or cleaned in accordance with CDC guidelines.
- Ask the infected employee to identify which co-workers they came into contact with during the first 14-day window.
- Contact the employees with whom your infected employee had contact and inform them that a co-worker in the practice who they may have had contact with has tested positive for COVID-19. Be sure to not specifically name the infected employee to remain in compliance with the ADA.
- Inform the employees who have been in contact with the infected employee that as a precaution they are being asked to self-quarantine for 14-days. Set clear expectations with the employee on when their expected return date will be and whether the employee will be compensated while on leave.
- Encourage the affected employees to reach out to their health care provider regarding next steps, if any, or if the 14-day quarantine is sufficient.
- Inform the rest of the team that during the previous two weeks someone who works in the practice has tested positive for COVID-19. Advise them that the practice will be closing to be sanitized and inform them of the anticipated date for it to reopen. Encourage anyone with concerns to speak with the Practice Owner or Practice Manager.
Depending on the size of the practice and the number of people exposed to the infected employee, practice owners may need to consider closing the hospital completely for the 14-days. All employees would be asked to stay home for safety precautions and would be asked to self-quarantine to help mitigate further spread of the virus.
Above all else, keep calm. The hospital team is looking towards their leadership team for guidance. They need to be reassured that these hard choices are being made to ensure their health and safety are the practice’s top priority.