What to do if an employee has COVID-19 – and what not to do
Provide next steps to the employee
Tell your employees to take the following steps if they experience COVID-19 symptoms, especially fever, cough or shortness of breath:
- Isolate immediately. If an employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they should isolate themselves immediately from others to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
- Stay home. Don't return to work until you feel healthy, where you have gone three straight days without a fever without the use of any fever reducing medications and improving respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
- Seek testing. If you have even mild symptoms or have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19, get tested.
Get medical care. Seek advice from your doctor on what to do if you are sick. If you don't have a doctor, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977.
Reporting cases and protecting employees' privacy
At this time, most employers are not required to report individual COVID-19 cases to the Health Department. The Health Department will be informed via the healthcare provider that conducted the employee's COVID-19 test.
When you are encouraged to report cases to Public Health – Seattle & King County:
- Employers who operate in healthcare and social service settings (e.g., senior living communities, homeless shelters, child care programs) should report cases to Public Health, while maintaining the confidentiality of anyone who is sick.
- If you are a non-healthcare or social services setting, but you think the virus may be spreading through your workplace, please contact Public Health. If one of your employees has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and may have been in close contact with other employees while infectious, notify other employees they may have been exposed, but do not identify the person who is sick.
- Access a form to report cases.
Cleaning and disinfection
In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee has been in the facility, close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:
- Wait 24 hours from the last time the employee was in the facility before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential exposure for other employees. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
- During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.
If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility. Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
Maintain healthy business operations
- Appoint a COVID-19 supervisor to trace cases in the workforce and alert anyone who may have been exposed. The supervisor should help employees who have tested positive trace their contacts with coworkers. The supervisor should also prepare resources to assist workers who need guidance about how to isolate or quarantine at home. The supervisor must maintain the privacy of employees' protected health information.
- Establish flexible sick leave policies and practices that are flexible and supportive, especially for workers 60 or older or those with underlying health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus. When sick employees can stay home, it prevents the spread to others at work.
- Do not require a doctor's note from any employees with symptoms of COVID-19.
- Communicate supportive workplace policies, such as telework options, employee assistance programs, alternatives to public-facing duties, in the preferred language of employees.
- Establish social distancing policies and practices