The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to restructure their processes to cull the spread of the virus. One of the key defenses against spreading the disease is alerting people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Since retail stores, restaurants, and other public spaces see a lot of foot traffic, there’s a higher chance that an individual could be infected with covid-19 in the presence of other people. Therefore, the responsibility of alerting individuals typically falls on the business owner’s hands.
As a result, we’ve seen a huge increase in customers looking to deliver notifications to employees and customers when another individual has tested positive for covid-19 in the united states. This new process is taking place across a wide range of industries. From restaurants to offices, everyone must play their part in helping to stop the spread of the covid-19 virus–and it all starts with effective communication.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has currently resisted issuing any nationwide workplace safety requirements to protect workers from COVID-19. As a result, united states governors and state health departments are stepping in to fill the absence of federal leadership. There are currently several states that have adopted comprehensive COVID-19 worker safety protections. These protections will generally outline the exposure notification requirements that you must follow as a business owner.
Many states have developed a general guideline that should be followed by all employers regarding COVID-19. Should your state have no laws or guidelines for covid-19 exposure notification, we suggest the following:
- Employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 should be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.
- Speak with the employee and gather potential exposure information based on their work hours, location, and activities in the workplace.
- Create a list of potential employees that may have had contact with the qualifying individual.
- If an employee has been in contact with the qualifying individual, they must also quarantine for 14 days from their most recent contact with said individual.
- Request that this employee also undergo covid-19 related testing at a local government testing center.
- If an employee works in the same workplace but has not had direct contact with the qualifying individual, you should notify them and ask them to be on high alert for any covid-19 related symptoms.
- Contact your local health department of any confirmed covid-19 cases.
What should the notification contain?
A text message should be the first option for mass alerting employees. Please ensure you follow these guidelines when sending an exposure notification:
- Ensure that your employees are alerted as soon as you are notified if one of your employees has tested positive for covid-19.
- Notifications must include the date, time, and nature of potential exposure with the qualifying individual.
- Provide follow-up advice, such as recommendations on where to get tested and how to proceed in quarantine.
- If the employee is still able to work, provide work-at-home advice or instructions if applicable.
- It’s important not to provide the identity of the source patient to other employers.
Proper communication is necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19 among your employees. It’s vital that you contact all related employees as quickly as possible. Regardless of the number of individuals you need to contact, a comprehensive mass messaging service such as Text-Em-All is one of the simplest ways to send an exposure notification.
COVID-19 state worker protections
Every state has their own safety plans and guidelines regarding the handling of exposure notifications. Below, we’ve detailed a couple of states that have started taking an active approach to defining exploring notifications and guidelines to follow regarding the coronavirus disease 2019.
On September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom enhanced Cal/OSHA guidelines by signing AB 685, which requires employers to provide specific notices to employees exposed to COVID-19. These notifications must be given within one business day of being made aware of the exposure. The new Cal/OSHA law will be in effect from January 1, 2021, until January 1, 2023. AB 685 will require employers to comply with specific notification requirements any time there is a potential COVID-19 exposure in their workplace.
According to the Cal/OSHA guidelines, employers are also required to notify the local public health department within 48 hours of becoming aware of a case of COVID-19 in the workplace. This will also include handing over information such as names and occupations of qualifying individuals. You can find the full Cal/OSHA guidelines under §5199. Aerosol Transmissible Diseases.
Illinois’s Executive Order 2020-32 (COVID-19 EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 30) outlines guidance that businesses are expected to follow. This includes requirements such as wearing cloth face coverings in public spaces or while working and establishing safer in-store processes such as limiting occupancy. The Executive Order does not specify exposure notification requirements. However, it points to the Workplace Health and Safety Guidance for Employees and Staff of Businesses page on the IDPH website for businesses that have employees physically reporting to a work-site or workplace. These guidelines state that you must self-quarantine for 14 days at home if you have been in close contact with a COVID-19 related case.
In addition, reopening checklists encourages any employee that has had close contact with a co-worker or any other person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 to seek a test at a state or local government testing center. Other employees should also be on alert for symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
So far, other states that have adopted comprehensive COVID-19 worker protections include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington State
For specific guidelines, please refer to the official government portal for each state. Otherwise, it’s safe to assume that guidelines and safety plans are relatively universal regarding the coronavirus disease 2019.
When should I be concerned about requirements?
If your company operates within a state that has adopted comprehensive COVID-19 worker protections, then you may be legally obligated to understand exposure notification requirements. However, even if your state doesn’t have guidelines in place for notifying employees about potentially being exposed to COVID-19, it’s still within your best interests to follow the guidelines set in this article.
Who should I notify?
Any individuals that may have been exposed to the employee that tested positive for covid-19 should be notified. This includes:
- Other employees that operate in the same workplace
- Clients that may have visited your workplace
- Customers that they may have served
- Other employers if the employee works at multiple locations
- Subcontractors that have worked in your workplace
When should I notify employees?
Within 24 hours of being notified that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 or if they have been subjected to an isolation order. Some states may impose a strict time limit that must be adhered to. This is usually no more than 72 hours.