The CDC doesn't have any guidance for employers about when to exclude symptomatic employees from work. The only resource they have is a list of possible COVID symptoms. We've developed our Exclusion Chart working closely with our own team of public health experts, doctors, epidemiologists and our contacts at the CDC to make a clear and operationally useful chart that balances our client’s needs and public health. In the winter, for example, this chart helps us differentiate between someone who gets a runny nose when they walk outside in subzero temperatures (probably not an issue!) versus someone who has a new runny nose, sore throat, and cough (very likely COVID at this point!). Another common one is headache - the CDC just says "Stay home if you have symptoms" and lists headache as a common COVID symptom, but millions of people have regular headaches every day, so we use this chart to help differentiate between someone who just has a headache versus someone who has multiple or telltale COVID symptoms.
That is the most frequent question that we’re getting and clearly a major point of frustration across all industries. We’ve seen the same unvaccinated employees excluded three and four times for close contact and then getting sick. And if they don’t get tested and test positive, then they will continue to require close contact exclusions and not have the 90 day exemption. There is no easy solution to this one… and worth discussing appropriate policy modifications with your legal advisors.
Unfortunately, yes, though it’s relatively rare. We are seeing some reports from the UK showing more reinfections with Omicron, some in as few as 28 days. The CDC still recommends that those who have had a recent COVID infection are exempt from exposure-related exclusions for 90 days, but with the rise of Omicron, we are seeing more instances of people getting what appear to be reinfections within that 90 day window. We’re also seeing people get COVID, start to feel better, and then feel worse again with new and sometimes different symptoms. While the first may be true reinfection, which is happening more as the virus mutates, the latter may be something more akin to long COVID. It’s very hard to determine which is true, but either way, the recommendation is to stay home if you have symptoms, even if you’ve had COVID in the past 90 days.
It’s really hard to say for sure. It does look like Omicron has peaked in many parts of the US where it hit hard early on, though case counts haven’t dropped back to what they were two months ago before this surge started. While places like New York are seeing a massive decrease in cases from the horrible height of this surge, others are still being slammed. Hospital admissions are down a bit from the peak, but those were record highs and hospitals across the country are at full capacity. Deaths are still incredibly high, at nearly 2000 per day. In many places, thankfully, case counts are dropping precipitously, just like they shot up sharply. We’re hopeful that means we can catch a break, at least for a while. We’ll continue to keep an eye on new variants, and encourage people to get vaccinated and boosted to help keep those numbers headed downward.