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COVID-19 Briefing - 6/2

Our twice-weekly briefing covers a key update to work exclusions, defining prolonged exposure as 15 minutes or more

Today’s Recap:

  • In a major change, the CDC has updated the exposure definition to within six feet for 15 minutes which is having a major impact on operations.  It now often means excluding everyone who worked with the sick employee and excluding everyone who worked with a manager who tests positive.   COVID-19 Exclusion Chart

  • Many of the states that have reopened are experiencing surges in positives - likely resulting from  new exposures, Memorial day weekend parties and the increased availability of testing.  The fallout from parties continues. 

  • Current hot spots include: TN, NE, AR, MN, KS, OK and IN.  Ford, Kansas had the highest number of new cases and in Trousdale County, TN, 1400 of 7800 residents have been infected.

  • Contact tracing continues to evolve as should your internal contact tracing procedures.  Here’s new guidance from the CDC on Contact Tracing, and an excellent article from Society for Human Resources Management  for employers.  

Best Questions of the Day:

If we’d already excluded employees within 6 feet for thirty minutes and the guidance changed to 15 minutes, do we need to go back and exclude additional employees? 

That’s a judgement call… but since several days have already likely passed since the exclusions, we’re not advising to go back and exclude additional employees.  The CDC and health departments have not advised us to do that.  Going forward, exclusions need to be for coworkers who worked within six feet for fifteen minutes or more.  Feedback is that is often everyone in a restaurant, store or office.

Should we exclude employees who attended protests?

We are not recommending exclusion of employees who attended protests.  Many attendees were masked, maintained some level of social distancing and all were out of doors.  This is a challenging issue and question.  We have spoken one on one with senior leadership across our client base and it seems nearly everyone is on the same page on this one.  Seriously hoping we don’t see positives a few days from now as a result but the US Surgeon General issued a warning that he believes it is likely.

An employee who attended a protest wants to be excluded for fourteen days, feeling he might place coworkers at risk.  Should we exclude him?

This is a very difficult question and one we don’t feel comfortable answering.  One client readily excluded an employee in this situation who told them he was not masked and in a large crowd for several hours.  Several others did not.  This is  a question that requires further discussion and for which there may not be a single answer.  Did the employee travel by mass transportation to the protest?  Were they masked?  

If an employee is being tested under the advice of their doctor, should we exclude until results come back?

They probably should be excluded.  Doctors are not advising random COVID testing, or curiosity testing.  So if a doctor advises someone to be tested, it is likely because they have reported some symptoms, contact, or other circumstances which suggest testing is indicated.  There are some instances where doctors order testing before a surgical or other procedure in which case exclusion awaiting results would not be needed.

If we have an employee who tests positive at a location, should we test everyone else at that location?

Probably not (at least not now).  There are circumstances where testing everyone makes sense (to reduce anxiety level, or because they all had similar exposures as the person who is positive).  But testing everyone doesn’t mean they can return to work sooner or that a negative test means they don’t have or aren’t still incubating COVID-19.  Testing everyone, at this point in time, can be a slippery slope and needs careful consideration.  And testing is still not as readily available as one would expect.  There are many states  with short supply and testing sites that require pre-test screening to determine eligibility.

Do I need to exclude everyone who worked if a guest or customer reports they have confirmed COVID?

Good question and needs case by case evaluation.  For a server waiting on a guest, the answer is likely yes with the new definition of exposure.  However, for a  masked customer with a generally quick retail transaction, probably not. This is a question we’re hearing more frequently. 

Best Read of the Day:

As we move into the next phase of living with COVID-19, this article from the NY Times looks ahead at COVID at 6 months.

Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months

A day where we passed on a best laugh.  

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