At this point, even if you are living under a rock, you surely have felt and experienced the global crisis that is COVID-19. There are regions wherein lockdowns and shelter-in-place have been enacted. In most areas, businesses have shut down or transitioned their operations to a work-from-home set-up.
Unfortunately, not all companies can afford to completely shut down nor can they adapt to a work-from-home arrangement. If yours is one of those businesses, making sure that you are familiar with relevant information regarding reporting COVID-19 procedures is imperative.
As a business owner, one of your responsibilities is to keep your employees safe, especially during a pandemic. We understand that it could be stressful. The information below can help you navigate through the process of reporting COVID-19 cases:
What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
These symptoms can vary from person to person. In fact, there are individuals who are asymptomatic. Nevertheless, below are a few of the most common signs that a person has been infected by COVID-19:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
Less frequent symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Persistent headache
- Abdominal pain
- Thick mucus
The symptoms of COVID-19 affect everyone differently and the severity can range from no symptoms to severe. Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after an individual has been infected.
When is it Necessary to Self-Report a Case?
if you have any of the more serious symptoms such as:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Pain in the chest
- Bluish lips
- Inability to be woken up
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) direction is to self-report to a healthcare facility immediately.
For your own health and the community at large, you are encouraged to contact your healthcare provider if you are feeling sick and have developed COVID-19 symptoms.
How to Record a Case?
As an employer, if you suspect that an employee was infected at the workplace, you are required to record the incident, informing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). There are three requirements that need to be met for this:
1) if the case is confirmed
2) if the case is work-related
3) if it meets the recording criteria of medical care beyond first aid
The CDC recommends to employers that symptomatic employees should be sent home.
What to Do When an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19?
One of the most concerning things about COVID-19 is that it does not choose its victim. No one is safe. In the unfortunate case that one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19, below are the steps that you should follow:
Send the Employee Home (Self- Quarantine)
Self-quarantine is one of the best ways to contain the spread of the coronavirus. If your worker shows up to work with symptoms of COVID-19, send them home immediately and ask them to quarantine for at least 14 days.
On employee Return-To-Work (RTW), the CDC has two guidelines to follow on discontinuation of home isolation: a time-since-illness-onset verses a time-since-recovery strategy.
If the employee has access to testing options, they should get tested. Once they have completed one of these three options, then they may be evaluated for coming back to work.
- For a time-based strategy, employees who are symptomatic shall remain at home and in self-care. They may discontinue home isolation after at least a 3-day (72 hours) waiting period since recovery has passed.
- A test-based strategy is contingent on the availability of ample testing supplies and laboratory capacity as well a convenient access to testing. Those who have COVID-19, are symptomatic and were directed to self-care at home may discontinue home isolation if there is a resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and negative results.
- For individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and who have not had any symptoms, may discontinue home isolation when at least 7 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 test and have had no subsequent illness.
Identify at Risk Areas and Employees
While the infected employee is in quarantine, make sure to keep the lines of communication open.
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The employer should instruct fellow employees about how to proceed based on the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure.
Inform the Rest of the Company
As a business owner, your task is to take control of the narrative. As soon as all the possibly affected individuals are informed and instructed, explain the circumstances to the rest of the company.
During this time, make it clear that the CDC guidance on workplace exposure is being followed. Follow HIPAA confidentiality. Do not disclose who the affected party is and make sure your employees understand they can reach out to you or the HR team in case they have any concerns.
Shut Down the Facility to Disinfect
It is not necessary for all operations to shut down when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. However, if the breadth of exposure is considerable, it might be best to migrate to virtual operations if possible.
Nevertheless, following the confirmation of a positive case, the immediate area in which the patient has been encountered should be disinfected. The CDC has come up with guidelines on how to make disinfection effective.
There is no denying how COVID-19 would change the way the world works. This statement rings true especially for safety guidelines imposed in the workplace. Contact Safety Services Company today to ensure that your company keeps up with the changes.