Many employers have been referring to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Interim Guidance on “Discontinuation of Isolation for Persons with COVID-19 Not in Healthcare Settings” in order to help determine when it is appropriate to allow employees to return to work from home isolation due to having COVID-19 symptoms or being diagnosed with COVID-19, in the absence of the individual receiving a direct release from his or her healthcare provider or other public health authorities. The CDC has now updated that guidance to provide additional recommendations regarding when asymptomatic individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 (i.e., those who have COVID-19 but do not exhibit symptoms such as fever, coughing, or difficulty breathing) may discontinue isolation. Employers that have employees who are confirmed to have COVID-19 but remain asymptomatic may wish to refer to this updated guidance to help determine when it is appropriate for such employees to return to work if they are not directly released to work by their healthcare providers.
In the updated guidance, the CDC states that the asymptomatic individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 may discontinue isolation or quarantine when at least seven days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, provided: (1) they have had no subsequent illness; and (2) they remain asymptomatic. While the CDC has not changed its general recommendations for social distancing and wearing masks or face coverings, the CDC recommends that asymptomatic individuals, for a period of 3 days following leaving home isolation per this guidance, stay 6 feet away from others and wear a cloth face covering (which in general and community settings need not be a medical/surgical mask or a respirator) whenever they are in the presence of others.
Employers should keep in mind that this guidance is intended for healthcare providers and state and local public health officials, but it is a useful reference for employers determining when to allow an employee to return to work in the absence of direct guidance from the employee’s healthcare provider or the relevant local public health authority. Employers should continue to monitor guidance from state and local public health authorities, which may, in some cases, deviate from the general CDC recommendations, and healthcare employers should note that separate CDC guidance applies with respect to certain healthcare workers.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Critical information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs.