Unfortunately, the answer is no. Although false negatives are far more common than false positives, it is as likely that she was tested at different points in her viral load. And viral loads don’t rise and fall in a smooth curve. The first test may have been at the very beginning of her illness, she might have had a very short infectious period, or it may have been at the end of her illness. We just have no way of knowing. And a footnote, in a real case: a close contact tested positive four days later so we can only assume the first positive was accurate.
Great question (and really timely). The answer is no - return to school testing, return to work testing, regular testing for another job and curiosity testing should not exclude an employee from work unless they are reporting symptoms or close contact.
Until the employee has either a presumptive diagnosis of COVID or tests positive, you don’t necessarily need to exclude anyone else. You do need to tighten up on following your work exclusions, though! Some clients require a manager swipe before an employee can clock in to prevent this from happening.
Sadly, the answer is yes. Unless the employee had been tested and tested positive, you can’t assume their illness was COVID. The health department would absolutely tell you that this employee needed to be excluded as if they’re a close contact, even though there is some high likelihood the roommate got COVID from them. We know this is really frustrating for managers who are trying to staff. Until there is better, more available, affordable and accurate testing, employees are not always going to go get tested.
This is a question we’re getting many times every day. The optics of returning someone to work post-COVID who is still coughing isn’t good. It makes coworkers and customers, understandably, uncomfortable. It’s also difficult to wear a mask while coughing. In this case, we’d request a doctor’s note.
COVID-19 testing is complicated and this week, Texas reported a huge drop in requested tests as patients say “why bother?”, but a huge jump in % positive (something like 25%). Understanding what’s happening with testing, why, and what we need to do to fix it is crucial.