Yes, as long as they are symptom free and have not tested positive. It is important to remember that the CDC is still saying a 14 day quarantine is recommended. And when your employees are contacted by contact tracers, many are still telling them 14 days, as well. And states are expected to begin issuing their own guidance soon which may impact this. But at this point, most of our clients have reduced their employee work exclusions or quarantines for close contact to 10 days from 14 (returning to work on Day 11).
The short answer: generally yes. The idea behind a 24-day exclusion was that someone who is continuously exposed to a COVID+ person stays quarantined for the full time that sick person is infectious (10 days) plus the full quarantine period, which is now being reduced to 10 days in many cases. So we think that reducing an in-home, continuous exposure exclusion to 20 days is reasonable given that the CDC has said a 10-day quarantine period is acceptable. Of course, there may be local jurisdictions that require longer quarantines and we recommend deferring to those when specifically instructed.
We don’t recommend allowing any employees to return sooner than 10 days for COVID exposure. Most of our clients have decided to not pursue testing as an earlier return to work option at this time, other than in some very limited and specific circumstances. Here’s why:
Testing is still a mess. Some clients, who have very defined business needs (such as no manager available or they’ll need to close the location unless they can get a few employees back) will consider using testing to bring those key people back earlier. However, the lack of available testing, slower turnaround times, and long lines for testing make it a difficult option to make actionable.
Plus, most state health departments told us they were surprised when the CDC recommendations for early return with testing included antigen testing (rapid tests). Many told us they will not adopt that portion of the CDC recommendations when they do release their own state guidance. The idea of being tested on day 5 or 6 to return after day 7 doesn’t match the most recent NIH study showing an average symptom onset of over 8 days! So someone might test negative on day 5 and be shedding virus and infectious by day 8 when they return to work.
We will continue to monitor this and expect there will be a great deal more discussion surrounding it in the coming weeks.
Even though the quarantine time is reduced to 10 days, CDC still recommends monitoring for symptoms for 14 days because the incubation period for Coronavirus is still 2-14 days. Even though people may return on Day 11 if they don’t have any symptoms and haven’t tested positive, they still need to monitor for symptoms for a full two weeks, and it’s important to know if they had exposure or symptoms at any point during that time.
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Many thanks to Michelle Harden, from Messner Reeves, LLP, for joining us to answer all of your questions on the legal and clinical issues related to COVID!
Have a great (and safe) weekend out there!