COVID-19 - What to do if an employee tests positive for COVID?

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LAST UPDATED: November 16, 2020

Send the employee home and do not permit them to return to work until they meet certain criteria

Workers with symptomatic confirmed COVID-19 can return to work after the following criteria have been met:

  • At least 24 hours have passed without the use of fever-reducing medications, AND
  • Symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) have improved; AND
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

If the worker tested positive and never had symptoms, they must wait 10 days from the date of the positive test before returning to work.

Report Positive Cases to RIDOH

If your business has identified positive cases of COVID-19, please complete this RIDOH COVID-19 Business Report Form (for uploading lists of employees at once, use this form) daily to help RIDOH better assist you in preventing rapid spread of disease and illness in your business and in the community. This only applies to businesses with cases, and excludes healthcare facilities and congregate care sites. Providing us with timely and accurate information is essential to preventing continued spread of this virus.

Clean and Disinfect the facility

Employers should

  • Close off areas used by the person who is sick.
  • Clean and disinfect a sick worker’s workspace. Wait 24 hours or, if 24 hours is not possible, as long as practical before you clean or disinfect.
  • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the exposed area, if reasonable given food safety regulations.
  • Collect information about the worker’s contacts among co-workers for the period starting 2 days prior to symptom onset to identify other workers who could be considered exposed.

If a worker is confirmed infected, inform fellow workers of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The employer should instruct fellow workers about how to proceed based on the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure.

Exposed employees

An employee is considered to be exposed if they:

  • Within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
  • Provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • Shared eating/drinking utensils
  • Were sneezed/coughed on or otherwise shared droplets

Employees that have been exposed should quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they have tested negative. A negative COVID test does not change the need to quarantine.

If someone in the employee’s home has tested positive, the employee must quarantine for 14 days after their last exposure to the person. This could mean that they need to quarantine for a total of 24 days.

Other employees

Workers who have had limited exposure and remain asymptomatic may continue to work but employers should implement proactive screening practices. Suggestions include:

Pre-Screen: Measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the restaurant.

Regular Monitoring: Even if the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor.

Wear a Mask: All employees are required to wear a mask when it is not possible to social distance, unless it would endanger the individual's health to wear a mask.

Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.

Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all common areas including, bathrooms and shared electronic equipment routinely.

Paid Sick Leave

On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced new action regarding how American workers and employers will benefit from the protections and relief offered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Learn more.

Employee Posters

What posters should employers post for employees?