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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

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

In the current COVID-19 outbreak, businesses and organizations must protect employees’ health and safety and limit the economic impact of the outbreak. Physical distancing (staying at home when sick, keeping people 6 feet apart and minimizing the number of people you interact with), mask wearing and hand hygiene with soap and water or alcohol hand gel, and regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces are essential.

This guidance assist businesses and organizations in understanding what steps to take if someone at your place of work is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19.

Additional guidance is available from the CDC.

How can I keep my workplace safe?

  • Use Health Department guidance to determine which employees are required to work remotely, and ensure that they do so.
  • Screen employees for symptoms of COVID-19 daily either in person or virtually.
  • Do not allow employees with symptoms to report to work in person.
  • Screen employees for close contact to a confirmed case of COVID-19 daily.
  • Do not allow employees who have had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 to report to work in person until their quarantine period is complete.
  • Perform surface cleaning and disinfection daily with an EPA-approved product.
  • Encourage frequent hand washing.
  • Require that everyone wear facemasks whenever they could come into close contact with another person.

What should an employee do if he or she is sick with COVID-like symptoms?

  • Any employee with symptoms of COVID-like illness should not come to work. If symptoms occur while at work, the employee should be isolated and then sent home immediately.
  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested. See our map of testing sites.
  • Anyone seriously ill should seek medical care immediately.
  • If the test result is negative, the individual may return to work after symptoms have been resolved for 24 hours.
  • If the test result is positive or if the employee chooses not to be tested, he or she may return to work when ALL the following have occurred:
    • At least 10 days have passed since the symptoms started AND
    • At least 1 day after resolution of fever [off fever reducing medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen] AND
    • Symptoms have improved.

What do I do if a person tests positive for COVID-19 but has no symptoms?

  • The person who tested positive should isolate at home for 10 days from the date of the positive test.

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

  • The person with a close contact must quarantine for 10 days from their last contact with the person who tested positive. Individuals may end their quarantine period after day 7 if a negative COVID-19 test (lab based or rapid) is obtained in 48 hours prior to the end of quarantine. For help determining the duration of quarantine, see Calculating Isolation and Quarantine Period (PDF). Coworkers of a person who has been exposed do not need to quarantine unless they also have had exposure to the infected person.
  • Find out more about the different time periods for isolation and quarantine (PDF) depending on the situation.

If an employee has gotten the COVID-19 vaccination, does he or she need to quarantine after having contact with someone with COVID-19?

  • Staff who have been fully vaccinated do NOT need to quarantine when exposed to someone with coronavirus IF they meet ALL of the following criteria:
    • They are fully vaccinated and it’s been > 2 weeks after the 2nd dose of their 2-dose vaccine or after the 1st dose of their 1-dose vaccine; AND,
    • They have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.
      • Staff should continue to monitor themselves for symptoms after exposure and quarantine and/or isolate if they develop symptoms.
  • All staff members who have been vaccinated will still need to strictly adhere to all mitigation measures:
    • Continue to physically distance (stay 6 feet apart from those outside your household and minimize the number of people you interact with).
    • Wear a mask at all times.
    • Practice hand hygiene with soap and water or alcohol hand gel.
      • While the vaccine has proven to be highly successful, it is not 100% effective. While we have high levels of the virus in the community, we must continue to comply with these measures to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.
  • If a staff member who has been vaccinated becomes sick with COVID-19 or tests positive for COVID-19, he or she must adhere to guidelines for isolation.
  • Read more CDC guidance about quarantine for vaccinated persons.

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

  • All close contacts of the person with the positive COVID-19 test (the “case”) must quarantine – that is, stay at home, away from others, for 10 days.  Employees may end their quarantine period after day 7 if a negative COVID-19 test (lab based or rapid) is obtained in the 48 hours prior to the end of quarantine.  Persons are considered close contacts if they spent at least 15 minutes over 24 hours within 6 feet of the case during the time when the case may have been infectious. Persons are also considered close contacts if they had direct contact with the secretions of the case (for example, being coughed on) during the case’s infectious period.
  • Employers should determine if any employees or customers were close contacts of the case from 48 hours before until 10 days after the case first developed symptoms or tested positive. The employer must promptly notify the employee that he or she is a close contact of someone with COVID-19 without naming the person with COVID-19.
  • Employers must report the names and contact information of any employees or customers who were determined to be close contacts of a case to PDPH.
  • When considering who is a close contact. 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.
  • Case investigators and contact tracers from PDPH are working to reach as many cases and contacts as possible, but they may not be able to help in identifying contacts or making recommendations for quarantine because the number of people testing positive exceeds the capacity to reach people. Please do not wait for a call to identify or give instructions to employees who need to isolate or quarantine.
  • The space where the positive person was working should be cleaned according to instructions below, but as long as there are employees available to work, a business does not need to close due to a positive case.
  • If there are more 5 or more cases in 14 days in the workplace, please call PDPH 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.
  • Note that PDPH approval is not required for re-opening after closures for cleaning.

What should I do if my business is essential, employing critical infrastructure workers and we have a severe worker shortage?

In the event of severe worker shortages, the CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to return to work immediately following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.

  • Pre-Screen: Employers should measure and record the employee’s temperature twice daily and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
    • Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever, congestion/runny nose, shortness of breath, fatigue, chills, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, nausea/vomiting, new loss of taste or smell and diarrhea.
    • Any employee with symptoms of COVID-19 must go home and quarantine immediately.
  • Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor twice daily under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
  • Strict adherence to the worker protections listed above. These include frequent cleaning, provision and requirements for mask use, physical separations, ensuring workers are 6 feet apart, handwashing breaks, and limitations on occupancy.

Clean the workspace

  • Maintain pre-existing cleaning protocols established by the business.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas routinely in accordance with CDC guidelines in spaces that are accessible by customers, tenants, or other individuals.
  • Routine cleaning with soap and water will keep surfaces clean and decrease the risk of transmission.
  • Disinfect with a household disinfectant. This will further decrease the chance of virus remaining on the surface. Many disinfectants are approved for COVID-19.
  • Soft surfaces such as drapes or carpet should be cleaned regularly with appropriate cleaners such as soap and water.
    • Alternative forms of cleaning and disinfection such as sanitizing tunnels, ultrasonic waves and high intensity UV radiation should not be used.If it has been seven days since the case was present, no additional cleaning is necessary.

  • Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone.
  • Call (800) 722-7112 to speak to a health care professional on the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline.