Recent Changes to CDC Guidance May Allow Employers to Safely Return Employees Exposed to COVID-19 to Work in Fewer Than 14 Days

Employers should be aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) recently revised its quarantine guidelines for people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. According to the CDC, quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that may occur before people know they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department. Quarantine is appropriate when people may have been exposed to COVID-19 through “close contact,” meaning they have been within 6 feet of someone who is positive for a total of 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period.

While the CDC has generally recommended a 14-day quarantine since the beginning of the pandemic, the new guidance now suggests that a person may only be required to quarantine for 7 or 10 days in the event that he/she had close contact with a person who has the virus depending on the circumstances. Since the availability of COVID-19 testing varies, the CDC has addressed both testing and non-testing scenarios.

Under the new CDC framework, if no symptoms are experienced from the “close contact”, a person may discontinue quarantine 10 days after the exposure without testing. When testing is available, quarantine may end after 7 days if no symptoms were experienced and a negative test result is obtained at least five days after the exposure. Although testing may be performed 5 days after the exposure, the CDC notes that this is in anticipation of testing delays, and that quarantine may not be discontinued earlier than after day 7.

While the CDC’s revised guidance is certainly not a cure-all for employers facing staffing shortages, it does appear to provide employers with a safe alternative which would permit quarantining employees to return to work a bit earlier after potential exposures than in the past.

Notwithstanding the above, it is crucial that employers remain diligent and proactive across the board to avoid potential liability related to COVID-19 as infection rates continue trending upward. Ensuring that comprehensive COVID-19 policies and procedures are in place is a strong first step and should be a priority for every organization. It is equally important for employers to ensure these policies are updated regularly to reflect the seemingly-daily changes in guidance at the local, state, and federal levels Employers should also review and update employee handbooks and other policies to ensure consistency. (See our blog post on the importance of updating Employee Handbooks here).

No matter the size of your business, we recommend you implement the following COVID-19 policies and maintain documentation of compliance:

  • Safe Workplace Policy
  • Out of State Travel Policy
  • Family First Coronavirus Response Act (“FCRA”) Leave Request Form
  • Remote Work Agreement(s) (temporary and/or permanent as applicable)
  • Self-Certification to Return to Work Post Quarantine/Isolation
  • COVID-19 Exposure Response Guidelines (for management)
  • COVID-19 Testing Policy (if applicable)

Informal or outdated policies create significant risk for employers, and organizations without clear, written protocols are subject to potential liability including employee claims and governmental fines and penalties. Pullman & Comley has policy templates and other useful resources available to aid employers in navigating the confusing web of laws, regulations, and guidance. For assistance with policies, FFCRA leave, or any other COVID-19 related compliance issues, please contact our Labor and Employment Law attorneys.

This blog/web site presents general information only. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice, and you should not consider or rely on it as such. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. This website is not an offer to represent you. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information at this website. Neither our presentation of such information nor your receipt of it creates nor will create an attorney-client relationship with any reader of this blog. Any links from another site to the blog are beyond the control of Pullman & Comley, LLC and do not convey their approval, support or any relationship to any site or organization. Any description of a result obtained for a client in the past is not intended to be, and is not, a guarantee or promise the firm can or will achieve a similar outcome.

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