When employees become infected with COVID-19, what should businesses do? And what should be done if they are exposed to someone with the Coronavirus? Also, when should employees stay home to quarantine or isolate?
During COVID-19, employers need to understand the latest guidance for sending employees home as well as the criteria for returning to work.
Quarantine Verus Self-Isolation
The purpose of quarantine is to see if a person becomes sick and develops symptoms. This is for people who have been exposed to COVID-19. At first, they may test negative. Their time in quarantine is used to help determine whether or not they become infected.
The purpose of isolation is to separate people with COVID-19 from those who are not sick. This helps to slow the spread of the disease.
When Should Employees Quarantine or Isolate?
Employees need to quarantine if they are exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 and they are
- not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines (i.e., unboosted)
They should isolate if
- they test positive for COVID-19
- exhibit clear COVID-19 symptoms
Employers need to understand the different case scenarios for sending employees home (e.g., exposed, testing positive, showing symptoms, experiencing no symptoms etc.)
How Long Should Employees Stay Home?
Employees who are sick with COVID-19 need to isolate and stay home until their symptoms improve. This includes being without fever for at least 24 hours.
According to the CDC's 5-day quarantine and isolation guidance from January 2022, individuals with COVID-19 need to monitor their symptoms for 5 days. After this time, if they still have symptoms, they have to keep monitoring their symptoms until they improve.
Employees who were exposed to COVID-19 (i.e., may or may not be infected) need to stay home and quarantine for 5 days. According to the CDC's guidance, this means that these individuals should get tested and stay home to for 5 days at a time to see if they develop symptoms.
If they do develop, they have to continue staying home until they improve.
When Do Employees Return to Work?
Whether or not a person can discontinue quarantine or isolation depends on the improvement of their symptoms, according to the CDC. This is the only criteria. A doctor can be consulted to help confirm. However, this is optional and not required for employees to go back to work.
Employers are NOT allowed to require the following as a contingency for their employees to return:
1. negative COVID-19 test results
2. a doctor's note
Although employees do miss out on work, quarantine and isolation keep businesses and work environments safe for other workers as well as customers. Businesses are encouraged to help their employees understand the latest CDC guidance and at-home self-care practices
Employees need to quarantine or isolate if they are:
not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines (e.g., unboosted)
In 2022, the CDC published their 5-day quarantine guidance. This does NOT mean that people stay in quarantine for just 5 days. Instead, affected individuals need to monitor any COVID-19 symptoms that develop for 5 days. This includes being fever-free for at least 24 hours.
Employees and other individuals may discontinue quarantine/isolation depends on the improvement of symptoms (by day 5). They can also consult with a doctor to confirm. If symptoms persist past 5 days, the individual needs to continue staying home until they improve.
This rule applies to anyone who develops symptoms, tests positive for COVID-19 (i.e., symptomatic and asymptomatic), and those who were exposed.
Employers cannot require test results or a note from a healthcare provider in order for employees to return.