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What to do if an employee has symptoms of COVID-19, flu, or RSV

For community settings only. For guidance on healthcare settings read Vaccine and masking requirements for healthcare workers.

As employers, taking precautions to help reduce the impact of COVID-19, flu, or RSV is essential for your employees’ health and safety.

Safety measures for employees

The following safety measures are essential for employees:

Staying at home when sick

If you are sick with symptoms of a respiratory illness, you should:

  • Stay home and away from others.
    • Seek testing/treatment from a health care provider if you have risk factors for severe disease (People with risk factors include older adults, young children under 5, people with weakened immune systems, people with disabilities, and pregnant people.).
    • Return to normal activities when, for 24 hours:
    • Symptoms are getting better overall AND
    • You are fever free without fever-reducing medicine.
  • For the next 5 days, use added precautions:
  • If you develop a fever or start to feel worse after going back to normal activities, stay home and away from others, for at least 24 hours, until:
    • Your symptoms are getting better overall AND
    • You are fever-free without fever reducing medicine.
    • Then take added precautions again for the next 5 days (see above).

Exposed, but no symptoms

  • If you have had an exposure but do not have symptoms:
    • Monitor symptoms for 1-2 weeks.
    • In case you did get the virus, using added precautions can help reduce the risk of getting anyone else sick. See added precautions (see above).
    • If you develop any symptoms of a respiratory illness, you should stay home and away from others and follow guidance for staying home when sick. See guidance above.

Tested positive, but no symptoms

  • If you have no symptoms but tested positive for a respiratory virus, you may be contagious.
    • For the next 5 days, take added precautions (see above).

Testing after exposure or symptoms

  • Testing is a valuable tool. You should test if you are able to test.
  • Testing is most important if you or the people around you have risk factors for severe illness.
  • People at high risk for severe illness include:
    • Older adults.
    • Young children under 5.
    • People with weakened immune systems.
    • People with disabilities.
    • Pregnant people.
  • If you are at high risk, discuss treatment with a healthcare provider. Treatment for COVID-19 or flu may be recommended. Treatment must begin quickly to be effective, so it’s important to discuss a plan as soon as possible.
  • The home-test-to-treat program provides most people with free virtual care, testing, and treatment for COVID-19 and flu.
  • You can get free COVID-19 tests through the Health Department’s resource hubs.

Prevention strategies for employers

What prevention strategies can I take for my organization?

CDC recommends that all people and organizations use core prevention strategies. These are important steps you can take to protect yourself and others:

When is it important to practice these prevention strategies?

  • When a lot of people are sick in the community due to respiratory viruses.
  • When you or people around you were recently exposed to a respiratory virus, are sick, or are recovering.
  • If you or the people around you have risk factors for severe illness.
  • If you are unsure of the health conditions or risk status of those around you, it’s best to use more prevention strategies.

How else can I keep my workplace safe?

  • Advise people to stay home if they are sick.
  • Provide employees with paid time off and develop flexible leave and telework policies.
  • Adopt flexible cancellation or refund policies for customers who are sick.
  • Promote vaccination: