How to Handle an Employee with COVID-19 Diagnosis – Apex Benefits

How to Handle an Employee with COVID-19 Diagnosis

Woman sneezing into a tissue paper while sitting at her desk

Woman sneezing into a tissue paper while sitting at her desk

Woman sneezing into a tissue paper while sitting at her desk

There’s a good chance your company has reopened its doors in the last two weeks for employees to return.

The rest of the country will likely follow in the coming weeks as businesses gradually reopen in some capacity. However, it’s vital to understand that just because businesses can open, it doesn’t mean COVID-19 has disappeared.

That means practicing good personal hygiene and keeping your workplace clean are just as crucial to maintaining a healthy workforce as they were before the stay-at-home orders were announced.

“As we start to leave the comforts of our home, we need to be prepared to not only protect ourselves, but protect those around us,” said Sarah Michaels, Apex director of population health and analytics. “Recent studies have shown us that many people who test positive for COVID-19 aren’t showing any symptoms. We need to always assume we could be carrying the virus.”

As mentioned in an earlier Apex blog, it is essential to provide cleaning materials and encourage all employees to wipe down surfaces often. While doing that, also consider:

  • Setting a cleaning schedule to ensure all surfaces, even low-touch areas, are disinfected
  • Providing directions for employees to clean their surfaces properly

Also, make sure employees throughout your workplace continue to follow physical distancing guidelines set by the CDC.

If necessary, arrange temporary setups so employees maintain the correct amount of distance from one another. Another good idea is to stagger shifts and limit the number of people in your facility at one time.

But even with all the necessary precautions in place, there’s still no absolute guarantee an employee won’t contract COVID-19.

So, what do you do if an employee is diagnosed or showing symptoms? The goal needs to be protecting the rest of your employees.

Start with creating a plan in the event this happens, and even have steps prepared before there’s an official diagnosis.

“By the time an employee calls their manager, we know it’s too late,” Michaels said. “That employee has already exposed every individual they have been around in the days leading up to the onset of symptoms. It’s imperative that as an organizer, clear guidelines are in place for an employee reporting an illness to their manager. In turn, managers must be educated on proper protocols to follow.”

Send an employee home if they start experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19. That includes:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills

Disinfect that employee’s workstation and anywhere else they frequent in the facility. If necessary, make sure other employees distance themselves from those areas as much as possible.

Track and register all your employee’s most recent contacts. Consider having an internal checklist for employees showing symptoms of COVID-19 or or those with an official diagnosis. This list could include:

  • Employee’s last date in the workplace
  • When employee’s symptoms first appeared
  • Names of other employees directly near sick employee in last 7-14 days
  • Names of individuals with COVID-19 symptoms who the employee has been in contact with

Having this information noted can help you make safe and effective decisions for your employees and determine if you need to send others home to quarantine. If enough people have been exposed, perhaps you decide to return to a work-from-home status for a period of time.

The last thing you as an employer wants to do is to create a hot zone inside your facility. Those could have devastating long-term effects for your business and cause even longer shutdowns, leading to financial problems.

It’s much easier to make necessary decisions when you have a game plan already in place. And it gets your company back to full operations sooner.

For more blogs about returning to work, check Apex’s Returning to the Workplace Resource Page.

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