By Nancy Owen, PHR, Senior HR Consultant, East Coast Risk Management
With the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreading across the nation, state and health officials continue to warn the public that the pandemic is far from over. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, almost every state in the US is reporting a rise in COVID-19 cases.
California, Florida, and Louisiana are currently experiencing some of the highest increases in the number of new cases. John Edwards, Louisiana’s governor, said, “We know that more than 80% of these are the Delta variant, that is what’s causing this surge, and what’s enabling the surge is a very low percentage of people who have been vaccinated.”
Thirty states have yet to fully vaccinate at least half of their residents, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC, viruses can change, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Genetic mutations occur over time and can lead to the emergence of new variants that may have different characteristics. As new variants emerge, employers are back to the original concerns. “How do we protect our employees, our customers, and our business?”
The CDC continues to advise all people to follow the below steps to protect themselves and those around them as COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States.
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine. Although vaccines afford very high protection, infection with the delta and other variants remain possible. Fortunately, vaccination, even among those who acquire infections, appears to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. People who certain medical conditions or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may NOT be protected even if they are fully vaccinated. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect yourself and others. Continue to wear a mask where required by laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance. Anyone over the age of 2 years who is not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor public places. In general, masks are not needed in outdoor settings. However, to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in public in areas with substantial or high transmission rates or anytime they are in close contact with people who are not fully vaccinated. Also consider wearing a mask if you or someone in your household has an underlying medical condition, is older, or is unvaccinated. In addition, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
- Keep your distance: Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you. If someone in your home is sick, if possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
- Avoid crowds and, as much as possible, avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces that do not offer fresh air from the outdoors.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or after handling your mask. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water aren’t available. In addition, clean high touch surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If someone is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19, disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Monitor your health daily: Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19. If any symptoms develop, take your temperature, and follow CDC guidance, as appropriate.
- Unvaccinated adults and children should avoid international travel if possible.
What should be done if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, the employee will be required to isolate themselves from others and employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure. Remember exposure occurs when you are within 6 feet of the person testing positive for at least 15 minutes in a day. Maintaining confidentiality is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The most recent CDC guidance states that someone who has had COVID-19 can discontinue isolation once they have met the following criteria:
- It has been more than 10 days since your symptoms began or, if you tested positive without symptoms, ten days following the positive test.
- You have been fever-free for more than 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms have improved.
- The CDC is no longer recommending a negative COVID-19 test before going back out in public.
What if an employee has been exposed?
According to the CDC, employees should quarantine when they have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 unless:
- they have been fully vaccinated and show no symptoms; or
- they had COVID-19 within the previous 3 months and have recovered and remain without COVID-19 symptoms.
For those who do not fit either description above the CDC recommends the following:
- Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
- Watch for fever (100.4◦F), cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- If possible, stay away from people you live with, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
- If you have symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact your local public health authority or healthcare provider.
Local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantines should last, based on local conditions, and needs.
When is the best time to get tested for COVID-19 after exposure?
Evidence suggests that testing tends to be less accurate within three days of exposure, and the best time to get tested is five to seven days after you were exposed. Tests are even more accurate when patients are exhibiting symptoms.
For more guidance related to the COVID-19 vaccine Click Here.
If you are an employer with questions about any safety, workers’ compensation, or human resources issue, contact East Coast Risk Management by calling 724-864-8745 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to help!
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