Back in April, I wrote about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (“CDC”) updated return to work guidance for healthcare personnel with COVID-19, which allowed healthcare personnel to return to work sooner than the previous 14-day period if certain criteria was met. At the time, a test-based strategy was the CDC’s preferred method for determining when healthcare personnel could return to work. On August 10, 2020, the CDC again updated its return to work guidance for healthcare personnel.
WHAT HAS CHANGED? Generally, the CDC no longer recommends the test-based strategy to determine when to allow healthcare personnel to return to work.
WHY THE CHANGE? The CDC has found that in the majority of cases, a test-based strategy results in excluding healthcare personnel from work who continue to shed detectable viral RNA but who are no longer infectious.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN GOING FORWARD? The CDC is now recommending a symptom-based strategy for determining when healthcare personnel can return to work (though such decisions should be made in the context of local circumstances).
An employee with mild to moderate illness who is not severely immunocompromised can return to work in a healthcare setting if: 1) at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; AND 2) at least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications (previous guidance required 72 hours to have passed); AND 3) symptoms have improved. An employee who was asymptomatic throughout his or her infection may return to work when at least 10 days have passed since the date of the first positive viral diagnostic test.
An employee with severe to critical illness or who is severely immunocompromised, can return to work in a healthcare setting if: 1) at least 10 days and up to 20 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; AND 2) at least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications; AND 3) symptoms have improved. The CDC is recommending that employees with a severe illness or who are severely immunocompromised consider consultation with infection control experts. A severely immunocompromised employee who was asymptomatic throughout his or her infection may return to work when at least 10 days and up to 20 days have passed since the date of the first positive viral diagnostic test.
Note: a test-based strategy could still be considered in some instances to allow the employee to return to work earlier than if the symptom-based strategy was used.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HEALTHCARE PERSONNEL RETURN TO WORK? The CDC is still recommending that healthcare personnel returning to work wear a facemask at all times while in the healthcare setting until all symptoms are completely resolved or at baseline (previous guidance recommended until 14 days after illness onset, whichever is longer). After this time period, these healthcare personnel should revert to their facility policy regarding universal source control during the pandemic. Further, the employee should self-monitor for symptoms and seek re-evaluation if symptoms recur or worsen.
The CDC’s updated guidance can be found here.
***The information contained on this website is for informational purposes and is not intended as formal legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. No attorney client relationship is established or intended as a result of the information contained on this website.***