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COVID-19 Briefing - 8/21

Back to school, flu season, & updated exclusions for close contact

Today’s Recap:

  • Back to school is already starting to be a source of major outbreaks. We’ve heard of multiple schools closing or cohorts of kids asked to quarantine due to exposure in the first week of school.  And we’ve already had groups of employees excluded since it is the time of year where many of you hire returning college students. 

  • The odds of catching Covid-19 on an airplane are pretty low, according to a new study. The exposure that comes with the rest of travel - close contact with taxi drivers, hotels, etc. are still high risk, though, so we still don’t recommend unnecessary travel. 

  • New Mexico is now requiring businesses that have one or more confirmed cases must test all exposed employees for COVID-19. 

  • TN guidance now spells out 24 days for quarantine for continuous exposure cases where the person lives with and is unable to isolate from the sick household member. 

Best Questions:

When we recently reminded employees that they’ll need to quarantine after international travel, we found out that many had been vacationing in Mexico.  Keeping them out for 14 days could be crippling.  How are other companies handling this issue?

Many of our clients have employees who visit family over the border regularly, or even who commute over the border. In those cases, we don’t think exclusions are realistic. Ultimately, travel exclusion decisions are up to each employer and many vary by travel destination, travel modality, and other risks. The CDC risk level for Mexico is a level 3, or the highest level.  There is no specific CDC guidance re: 14 day quarantine from Mexico, but specific state quarantines should be checked (and change frequently).

What’s the best way to explain why we’re excluding some people for 24 days now to my managers or employees?

This link to the CDC has excellent examples: COVID-19: When to Quarantine.  Scenario 4 is this specific question. Their calendar helps a lot. 

But basically, you need to quarantine for 14 days from your last exposure to someone who is infectious.  People are infectious for ten days after the onset of their symptoms (or a positive test if asymptomatic). So if you live with someone infectious and can’t isolate from them in your house, for example, you’re out the 10 days they’re infectious, plus 14 days after that.  10 + 14 = 24.

An employee got BOTH a rapid test and PCR test on the same date as a routine test for starting a new job. The rapid was positive, and the lab performed PCR came back 2 days later as negative. The employee ever had any symptoms. Do we exclude, or allow them to begin work?

We recommended allowing the employee to begin work. We are seeing increasingly unreliable results on rapid tests.  Early on, we were most concerned about false negatives.  Now, we’re routinely seeing false positives, as well (although not as frequently).  

An employee reported a new cough and chest congestion and went to see his doctor last night.  The doctor didn’t test him for COVID, diagnosed an upper respiratory infection and gave him an antibiotic.  Do we exclude him?  Can he return to work if he tests negative. 

Absolutely, he should be excluded for 10 days from onset and no, we would not return him to work for a negative test (which may have been done too soon or may be a false negative).  We continue to be surprised by who isn’t COVID tested and by diagnoses like these where the symptoms described as as likely to be COVID as nearly any other diagnosis right now. 

An employee was excluded for fourteen days after his wife was sick with symptoms consistent with COVID.  On day ten, his asymptomatic son tested positive.  Does the employee start the 14 days again?

This is a very tough one…. The answer is yes.  The 14 days start again from the son’s test date.  And if the employee is caring for or not isolating from the son, it’s 10 days from the son’s test date and then 14 days.  Hopefully, the son or the employee can isolate to reduce the exclusion.  This type of exclusion remains the most challenging for employees and employers. 

Best Read:  

As we all have more and more employees returning to work post COVID, we’re seeing a pattern of some being mildly sick and ready to come back in just a few days (but not being cleared until at least 10) and some who are sick or fatigued or describing brain fog, heart palpitations, difficulty walking for weeks and months.  This article from the Atlantic says that up to 10% of COVID patients are “Long Haulers” or seeing lingering symptoms for months which could result in the single largest group of disabled workers in history.

Long-Haulers Are Redefining COVID-19

Best Laugh:  

This one seems so appropriate for the week kids are going back to school (or not).

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.