On April 8, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Interim Guidance for implementing safety practices for critical infrastructure workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
The CDC advises that these workers (which include both employees and contractors) may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure provided that they remain asymptomatic and the employer monitors these workers and implements additional precautions in the workplace.
The CDC’s guidance defines “potential exposure” as either household or close contact with an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
The time frame for this contact includes the 48 hours preceding the individual’s first sign of symptoms.
The Guidance states that, prior to and during the work shift for these workers, employers should:
- Pre-screen and measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work.
Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility;
- Regularly Monitor the employee’s temperature and symptoms (and have the employee self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program);
- Have the employee wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after the last exposure;
- Have the employee social distance and maintain a 6 feet perimeter as work duties permit in the workplace;
- Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas and shared electronic equipment routinely; and
- Work with facility maintenance to increase air exchanges in the building.
If the employee becomes sick during the day, the employee should be sent home immediately and all surfaces in the employee’s workplaces should be cleaned and disinfected. Employers are also encouraged to compile information on all persons who have had contact with the ill employee during the time the employee had symptoms as well as two days prior to the first sign of symptoms. The guidance contemplates that other employees with close contact – within six feet of the sick employee – are considered to have been “exposed.”
The CDC’s new guidance provides some helpful guidelines for employers, but employers with essential work forces must still carefully consider processes and methods to best ensure the health and safety of employees who remain in the workplace and how to respond to confirmed or suspected cases within the workforce. We will continue to monitor and provide updated guidance concerning the evolving guidance regarding COVID-19, and we encourage you to reach out to one of the individuals below or your regular Crowell & Moring contact with any questions you may have.