The coronavirus crisis has been a challenge for our entire community, but especially for small business owners. Navigating the constantly changing guidelines and mandates has become almost a job in itself. Now, the Riverside County Public Health department has issued new guidelines for employers to help understand how coronavirus can impact the work force.
What should I do if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19?
This is one of the biggest questions that business owners face. According to the County, "In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility," as long as you take these actions:
- Close off any areas used for a significant amount of time by the sick person.
- Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting so that other employees are not exposed.
- Open windows and doors during the waiting period.
When you're ready to clean, follow these Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines:
- Clean all surfaces with soap and water first.
- Disinfect surfaces with products that meet the EPA criteria for use against COVID-19, listed HERE.
- Wear gloves, gowns, and other PPE (personal protective equipment) to protect yourself from chemical exposure when cleaning.
Meanwhile, you should determine if other employees may have been exposed to COVID-19. If so, you should take additional precautions:
- Email the list of potentially exposed employees to the Riverside County Department of Public Health at COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org
- Send exposed employees home to self-quarantine. Public Health staff from the County will contact them for next steps.
- Employees should follow guidance from the Public Health Staff, and only return to work upon their approval.
For the full County guidelines on this topic, click HERE.
If your employees test positive outside of work, the County Public Health system will contact employers in an attempt to reduce spread. Employees are protected by privacy laws, so they cannot reveal the employee's information, but employers should consider having protocols in place to allow employees to self-report.
When an employee tests positive, they must isolate at home. The length of that quarantine is dependent on several factors.
If Your Employee Has Symptoms
They must stay home until at least three days past the end of their fever and at least ten days have passed since the last positive test.
If Your Employee Does Not Have Symptoms
They must stay home until ten days have passed since the date of their first positive test. If they develop symptoms, follow the protocol above.
Employees almost must isolate if they are exposed to someone who is positive for COVID-19 - even if they have not tested positive.
If Your Employee is Exposed & Has Symptoms
They must stay at home for 14 days. Refer them for testing, and if the test is negative, they can return to work in the absence of symptoms. If they end up testing positive, they must complete their 14-day quarantine, and can only return once they have had no fever for three days.
If Your Employee Is Exposed & Does Not Have Symptoms
They must stay home for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms and test negative.
If an employee has come into contact with a confirmed positive case, they must quarantine for 14 days even if they test negative. If they test negative but still have symptoms, they must undergo assessment for other potential diagnoses (like the flu) and may need to be tested again.
The County does not recommend using negative test results as a way of clearing employees to return to work.
For the County's full guidelines regarding employee quarantine, click HERE.