14 Apr CDC ISSUES GUIDANCE ON SAFETY PRACTICES FOR CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE WORKERS POTENTIALLY EXPOSED TO COVID-19
On April 9, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) issued updated guidance providing that critical infrastructure workers may continue to work after “potential exposure” to COVID-19 if they remain asymptomatic and take additional precautions to protect themselves and the community. “Potential exposure” is defined to mean being in the same household as a person with COVID-19 or “having close contact within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.”
The CDC’s guidance states that if a critical infrastructure worker is “potentially exposed” and continues to work, five protocols are minimally necessary:
- The employee’s temperature should be measured before they enter the facility.
- The employee should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
- The employee should wear a face mask at all times in the workplace for at least 14 days after the last exposure.
- The employee should maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet).
- The employee’s workspace should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
As noted, the guidance only addresses critical infrastructure workers who are “potentially exposed” and remain asymptomatic. The guidance provides that if an employee actually becomes symptomatic, they should be sent home and their workspace cleaned and disinfected. In addition, anyone who had been within 6 feet of that employee would be considered exposed and subject to the CDC’s safety protocols.
While the CDC’s guidance allows for “potentially exposed” critical infrastructure workers to continue working if they are asymptomatic and the protocols discussed above are followed, employers are reminded that they may choose to follow more conservative safety measures.
Although the CDC’s guidance allows an employee to remain working, employers must also remain compliant with the various federal and state laws which have expanded sick leave rights to employees. Simply put, while an employer could allow potentially-exposed, asymptomatic employees to remain working under the CDC’s guidance, depending on the exact circumstances, those same employees might have a right to take paid or unpaid sick leave under federal or state law.
Application of the CDC’s guidance and federal/state sick leave laws will often require close scrutiny of the facts and law. Employers are, therefore, advised to consult with their employment counsel as particular issues arise.