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An Employee Says They Tested Positive for COVID-19. Now What?

We break down the most common questions and provide key talking points for communicating to your staff when one of your own has COVID-19.

So, an employee calls and says they tested positive for COVID-19. What next?


Ask the sick employee some important questions. 

  • When did your symptoms start?
  • When did you last work?
  • Did you get tested at an official testing site? If yes: when, where and do you have the results? 
  • Do you live with or have intimate contact with any other employees?

We absolutely want to keep sick employees out, but we’re also seeing a lot of reports from panicked employees who think they need to stay out because of casual contact with someone who claims to have COVID-19. There’s just a lot of hearsay and anxiety, so we want to understand these facts just to be sure it’s an actual positive.

As an employer, it's not your responsibility to report a COVID positive to the department of health. The testing lab or ordering physician will report it to the department of health. If you do get contacted by the department of health, check out our Contact Tracing Action Plan for next steps.

Exclude any employees that live with or have an intimate relationship with the sick person for 14 days.

This is longer than the actual sick person (who is excluded 10 days, including three without symptoms and not using medicine to reduce their fever). That's because the sick person's close contacts could pick up the virus on day one or on day five - we just don’t know! So, we exclude them for the full 14 days to be sure.


Talk to the rest of the staff using these key talking points:

You want to respect your sick employee's privacy, but we also know that coworkers will talk, and more communication is better to avoid unnecessary panic. The CDC recommends telling coworkers that an employee is sick, without sharing their name.

Here are some key talking points to discuss with staff (and we highly recommend doing this in person or by phone, rather than in an email that can be forwarded or shared):

  • Recently we were notified that a co-worker has reported to have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • We are in close contact with the CDC, health departments and our own medical advisors.
  • We’re properly sanitizing the restaurant as a precaution.
  • There is no reason for anyone from this location to be quarantined as coworkers, according to the CDC’s latest guidelines.. That is only for family members or intimate contacts. (If you are one of those, e.g. you live with this employee, let us know!)
  • Please monitor yourself for symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea).
  • Notify your manager and don’t come to work if you develop any of them (or any other illness – it’s still cold and flu season).
  • Handwashing and not working sick remain our two most important tools to keep ourselves and each other safe. 


It’s important to note that right now, the CDC isn’t recommending that the whole staff who worked with that employee are quarantined. Only roommates or family members, or people who had close physical contact (within 6 feet for 30+ minutes) with that person need to be quarantined under the current guidelines. 


Do a thorough cleaning.

Even though there is far greater risk of person-to-person contact, a thorough sanitizing never hurt! It also serves to make nervous employees feel like they’re taking action. See the Zedic App for a full Coronavirus Sanitizing Protocol including a printable checklist.


Focus on handwashing.

Now more than ever. Try implementing a “handwashing captain” on each shift who rings a bell at the top of the hour to remind people to wash their hands an extra time. 

We know that questions will continue to come up, and many of these guidelines will change over time. They’ve already changed twice since last week!  We’re working closely with our team of epidemiologists, doctors, nurses, and with the CDC and local health departments to continue to bring you the most up to date information. Chat in to Zedic with any questions, to check that your info is up to date, or to talk through your company’s response to COVID-19! We’re here to help. 

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