On April 8, 2020, the CDC issued new guidance advising critical infrastructure workers (essential workers needed to maintain the services and functions that communities depend on daily) to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and certain precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. This guidance stems from the CDC’s efforts to ensure continuity of operations of essential functions.
The CDC explains that an individual is considered to have a “potential exposure” to COVID-19 if he/she had household or close contact (within 6 feet) with someone who is confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19. This includes contact with someone up to 48 hours before that person became symptomatic.
Notably, for employees who remain asymptomatic, the CDC urges employers to pre-screen these employees by measuring and assessing their temperature and symptoms prior to the employee reporting to work, and ideally prior to the employee entering the workplace. Additionally, employers and employees should adhere to the following practices prior to and during their work shift:
- Regular Monitoring: Employees should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
- Wear a Mask: Employees should wear a face mask at all times in the workplace for no less than 14 days after the last exposure. Employers may issue face masks or approve of employees’ cloth face coverings.
- Social Distance: To the extent possible, employees should maintain proper social distance, within 6 feet, from coworkers.
- Disinfect and Clean Workspaces: Employers and employees should ensure that all areas, including offices, bathrooms, common areas, and shared equipment, are routinely cleaned and disinfected.
The CDC urges employers to send home any employee who becomes sick during the day and to maintain a record of employees who have potential exposure to an ill employee, during the time the employee had symptoms and 2 days prior to those symptoms. The CDC also continues to encourage employers to implement the CDC’s recommendations to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.