By Molly Wood, SPHR, Senior HR Consultant
Just when we thought vaccines were going to save the day and all the nuances about quarantine, exclusion from work, and supplemental paid sick leave were behind us, here comes the Delta variant. Ugh!
So, taking a trip down memory lane, and adding caveats for vaccinated vs. non-vaccinated employees, here is what you need to know if an employee tells you they have tested positive or been exposed to a COVID case.
First, determine who in the workplace has had COVID exposure. This is defined as a person who has been within six feet of a COVID case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the “high-risk exposure period”. The high-risk exposure period is from two days before symptoms developed until 10 days after symptoms first appeared AND 24 hours have passed with no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and symptoms have improved. If a person who tested positive is asymptomatic, the high-risk period is two days before until ten days after the date of the positive specimen collection.
Now that you know who has been exposed, notify them within 24 hours without revealing the name or any other identifying information about the exposed and/or COVID positive employee.
Unvaccinated employees will need to self-isolate for 10 days. For employers with 26+ employees, the unvaccinated and exposed employee is eligible for Supplemental Paid Sick Leave if they are unable to work from home and have not used their SPSL previously. Unvaccinated employees who are not eligible for SPSL, or who have already used their SPSL, may qualify for either Unemployment Insurance or Disability Insurance.
Vaccinated employees can continue working, wearing a mask. Vaccinated employees should test three to five days after the last known exposure and must continue to wear a mask for 14 days, or until a negative test is received.
Employees who have met the self-isolation requirements do not need to provide a negative COVID test. Employers can require medical certification clearing an employee to return to work if they have been ill.
As September 30 approaches, we expect to have new or extended mandates regarding COVID exposure in the workplace. Unfortunately, the crystal ball is pretty fuzzy on the details. Stay tuned.
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