This is undoubtedly the question of the week, one which many of you have been asking since the CDC’s updated masking guidance. And there is no easy answer. Some employees will be more comfortable remaining masked, while others can’t wait to rip them off. Some guests will be more comfortable when employees who are preparing their food or taking care of them are masked, and others are annoyed by anyone around them wearing a mask. Who would ever have guessed two years ago that this would be such a loaded and long term issue? While many companies are relaxing mask mandates, most are only doing so for guests and vaccinated employees.
Determining who needs to be masked based on fluctuating county-specific measures is challenging. Having employees in one county masked but others in a neighboring county not masked is challenging - especially when employees travel to multiple locations. One CPO said, ”I anticipate that we’ll remain masked until we see what others are doing and if this guidance holds.” Generally, if in doubt, our best recommendation is to keep your mask mandates in place until we see how this plays out. For more on this, Fisher Phillips has released their legal interpretation here, and we liked this NPR story addressing this question: Businesses Bet on Their Own Mask Policies.
Yes. While overall COVID numbers are down, they still remain above 60,000 per day among those who are getting tested, not including all the at-home positives that aren’t being counted in those numbers. On a daily basis, we are seeing many employees reporting COVID symptoms (and similarly seeing many employees reporting symptoms that are consistent with Norovirus). It’s important to remember that while we’re way below the Omicron peak, actual case numbers are still high and sick employees should still stay home!
Almost certainly. We’ve seen an incredibly low amount of Noro over the past two years because the strict precautions used to limit the spread of COVID prevent the spread of Noro, too. Keeping sick employees at home, and washing hands thoroughly are two of the best defenses against both viruses. Much like COVID, Noro can spread through the air when someone vomits - but unlike COVID, it also spreads easily on surfaces. Noro can easily be transmitted after someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches their face. This uptick we’re seeing in Noro cases is definitely related to the easing of restrictions. To help prevent the spread, remind your employees to spot the signs of Noro (diarrhea and vomiting!), stay home when sick, and wash their hands as much as they did back in March 2020! If someone gets sick on-site, be sure to do a thorough cleaning and sanitizing, since those virus particles can spread like crazy.
As long as sick employees are staying at home when they have symptoms, whether to test or not is generally up to them. The primary benefit of a confirmed COVID positive test is for unvaccinated employees, who won’t need to be excluded from work if they have a close-contact exposure for the next 90 days after their COVID diagnosis. For others, it’s generally up to the employee and to your company policy, but we recommend checking with your legal team before asking sick employees to go get a test. You may be on the hook for the time they spend testing, the cost of the test, or other legal implications, so it’s a good idea to run it by your legal team before adopting any policy around testing for symptomatic employees.
If you didn’t see Saturday Night Live this weekend, take five minutes to watch this. This dinner table convo will look familiar to one you’ve likely had recently - just a lot more fun.