Symptom survey / wellness checkrequirements are stressing managers. Many of you continue to struggle with the employee symptom surveys in Florida, Ohio, and elsewhere. Florida’s guidance says the manager is to meet the employee outside the building to ask the symptom questions. (Their requirement to ask if anyone was in any airport for the last 14 days is also a challenge!)
Different health departments have different requirements and reactions to COVID-19. One health department issued a press release about a single guest who tested positive 13 days ago.
There seems to be more testing available in the hotspots like NY, CA and WA with variable turnaround times but the rest of the country seems to be doing a better job of following the current guidance of reserving tests for health care workers and those patients who need to be hospitalized.
Employee exclusion issues remain complicated. There are employees who want to be excluded from work who are not symptomatic nor live with anyone who is but have special concerns or risks. These are more likely FMLA issues and not related to sick policy or COVID exclusions.
The rapid conversion of convention centers and other larger venues to hospitals or shelters is presenting unique food service challenges. Separating ill patients and exposed healthcare workers from food service workers takes careful planning, use of PPE and excellent communication with stakeholders.
1. We have managers who want to take employees’ temperatures. What guidance can we provide or talking points for why they might want to avoid this?
We do understand that taking temperatures may give some a sense of security or insurance - but that may be a false sense of security. Many patients have no fever, or no symptoms at all. Then, finding proper thermometers is almost impossible and the infrared thermometers we all frequently use for food temps don’t accurately record body temp. There may be some jurisdictions requiring this (please send us that info if you have it and we’ll share) but not many.
2. I have an employee who also works in a hospital housekeeping department where COVID-19 patients are being treated? Should I exclude them from work?
Although it would be helpful to exclude that employee, it really is very difficult to do that. If they’re asymptomatic, there is no clinical reason they cannot work according to the current CDC risk assessment. This may be another one to refer to HR.
3. Some employees always have coughs. Can they work?
Yes. When we speak with an employee whose symptom report is a cough and nothing else (no fever, no shortness of breath or other signs of illness), we’re asking if the cough is new. More often than not, the answer is no - I’ve had this cough for months, years, my whole life, I’m asthmatic, I have allergies, etc. We are not excluding employees whose cough is not new. We are excluding employees who have a newly developed cough.
4. How do we explain why someone is excluded for fourteen days?
Although the average onset time is 5.2 days from exposure, the incubation period is up to 14 days (there were a few examples elsewhere that were even longer than that). While someone who is already showing symptoms has to be kept out at least 7 days, plus three without symptoms, this 14-day exclusion is for someone who isn’t showing symptoms but was very likely exposed because they live with someone who is sick, traveled internationally, etc. Their exclusion is longer, because they may have been exposed on the first day that their family member showed symptoms, or on the fifth day. We just can’t know when they actually contracted the virus, if at all, so we have to exclude them the full 14 days.