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What to do if someone tests positive for COVID-19 at work

As employers, taking precautions to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 is essential for your employees’ health and safety. The following safety measures are essential:

  • Staying at home when sick.
  • Masking.
  • Avoiding contact with people who are at high risk of getting very sick.

The Health Department recommends:

The guidance below is designed to help businesses and organizations understand what steps to take if someone at the workplace is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19.

Are employees required to wear masks?

While masks are no longer a requirement in Philadelphia, you may choose to require masks in your establishment. The Health Department strongly encourages wearing a well-fitting mask:

See below for specific guidance about mask-wearing if you have been exposed to COVID-19 or test positive or are probably positive for COVID-19.

How can I keep my workplace safe?

  • Encourage remote work when possible for people with COVID-like symptoms who test negative.
  • Exposures: Employees who have had an exposure to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms (regardless of their vaccination status), may report to work in person. They should wear a well-fitting mask in the workplace for 10 full days and get tested on or after day 5. For complete details, visit What to do if you were exposed.
  • See guidance below for employees who:
    • Are sick with COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Tested positive for COVID-19.
    • Tested negative for COVID-19.
  • Perform surface cleaning and disinfection regularly with an EPA-approved product.
  • Encourage frequent hand washing.

What should an employee do if they are sick with COVID-like symptoms?

  • They should not come to work. They should isolate immediately and get tested. See our map of testing sites.
    • The Health Department works with community organizations to run COVID-19 Resource Hubs and other distribution events that give out at-home tests at no cost to individuals. Find a resource hub near you.
    • Individuals can also order four free test kits per household through
  • If symptoms occur while at work, the employee should be sent home immediately.
  • Anyone seriously ill should seek medical care immediately.


  • If the employee’s test result is negative, the employee may return to work after:
    • They don’t have a fever for at least 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medicines AND
    • Their symptoms are improving (some mild symptoms may linger).
  • COVID-19 shares many symptoms with other potentially contagious conditions. Even if the employee is not diagnosed with COVID-19, they should still follow your establishment’s normal illness policy.
  • If the employee’s test result is positive (even if they have no symptoms), or if the employee chooses not to be tested or is unable to test, they may return to work after:
  • Staying at home at least 5 full days from the date of the positive test or symptoms. (Day 1 is the first full day after the test collection or symptoms began.) They should stay away from others at home. They are likely most infectious during these first 5 days. They should wear a high-quality mask if they must be around others at home or in public.
  • The employee should also take these precautions:
    • Do not go to places where they are unable to wear a mask.
    • Avoid travel.
    • Avoid being around people who are at high risk.
  • If after 5 days they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, and symptoms are improving or they never had symptoms, they may end isolation after Day 5 and return to work.
  • If they develop symptoms after they have tested positive, Day 1of isolation becomes the day symptoms began.
  • Regardless of when they end isolation, they should avoid being around other people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, at least until day 11.
  • They should wear a high-quality mask through day 10.

What do I do if a person had an outside of work close contact with someone with COVID-19?

  • Employees who have had an exposure to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms (regardless of their vaccination status) may report to work in person.
  • The exposed employee must wear a well-fitting mask in the workplace for 10 full days. For complete details, visit What to do if you were exposed.

How do I keep other employees and customers safe if someone at our workplace tests positive for COVID-19? Do we have to close?

  • As long as there are employees available to work, a business does not need to close due to a positive case.
  • No individual who tests positive for COVID-19 should be allowed to come to work.
  • Those exposed to the employee should follow exposure guidelines outlined above.
  • Employers should help determine if any employees or customers were exposed.
  • When considering who may have been exposed, be sure to think about break and lunch time as well as carpools and other times when coworkers may be in close proximity but not at their desk. Encourage employees to be familiar with their exposure risks.
  • If there are 5 or more cases in 14 days in the workplace, please call the Health Department at (215) 685-5488. We will help you walk through next steps.
  • Please do not require proof of COVID-19 testing either to qualify for sick leave or to return to work if it has been at least 10 days since the employees the last exposure.


  • Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone.