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COVID-19: CDC Guidance on Returning to Work

Apr 02, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 is impacting employers across the country. Man with flu resting on couch For workforces not able to work remotely, employers are asking how they should address workers who exhibit symptoms or have a confirmed case of the disease.

With the number of positive cases of the virus continuing to rise, what steps should you take if one of your workers has COVID-19, and when should they be allowed to return to work? The CDC offers guidance on prudent timelines for different scenarios.

For instance, according to CDC, if an employee has a fever and a cough, but then gets better without COVID-19 testing or medical care, they would be allowed to return to work under the following conditions:

  • Three days have passed since their recovery, which means their fever is resolved without the use of fever-reducing medication and their respiratory symptoms have improved; and
  • At least seven days have passed since they first experienced symptoms

Another case could be an employee who is medically confirmed to have COVID-19 and is showing symptoms. In this instance, the worker would be allowed to return to work if:

  • Their fever has been resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications;
  • Their respiratory symptoms have improved (for example, cough or shortness of breath); and
  • They have had two negative COVID-19 tests

For employees who have a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19, but are not showing any symptoms, CDC currently says they may return to work:

  • After at least seven days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 test; and
  • They have had no subsequent illness

CDC advises that local and state level authorities may adapt this and other COVID-19 guidance as circumstances change. The agency also has specific return-to-work guidance for healthcare personnel with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Visit our COVID-19 webpage for further information and the latest resources on how you can address the virus in your workplace. 

Related Links
Injury/Illness Recordkeeping and COVID-19: Updated OSHA Guidance
OSHA Provides Temporary Guidance for Respirator Fit-Testing in Healthcare
The Safety Professional’s Role in Planning for a Pandemic
How to Apply the Hierarchy of Controls in a Pandemic
How to Qualitatively Fit Test Your Respirators


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