What to Do If an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19
By Practice Growth August 19, 2020
Despite following best-practices and adhering to public health guidelines, it’s possible that an employee at your practice may contract the novel coronavirus. As a business owner or manager, it’s crucial you set out an action plan detailing the steps you’ll take if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. In general, it’s better to plan ahead while all is well than to scramble to put together a plan when the situation demands it. The CDC has published an interim guide for businesses and employers responding to COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know:
Should You Shut Down?
In most cases, there’s no need to shut down when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. Section off the person’s workspace and, if possible, avoid grabbing anything or working in that particular space for 24 hours. If the employee works in a high-traffic area that can’t be avoided, like at the reception desk, it may be necessary to close until a thorough cleaning can be done.
What About Close-Contact Colleagues?
In a large corporation with several departments and hundreds of employees, employers must consider privacy protection rules when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. In a small practice setting, however, it’s likely everyone will know when a colleague is absent because of a positive test result. The CDC recommends that, where possible, employers inform close-contact colleagues of the risk of exposure, and instruct them to self-isolate and work remotely for 14 days.
It can take weeks for symptoms to develop. For employees who aren’t close contacts, but who may have had some sort of contact with the infected employee, conduct temperature checks in the mornings before work. Have all employees self-monitor for symptoms, and encourage them to wear masks and practice physical distancing. Disinfect workspaces, surfaces, and equipment regularly.
Is Professional Cleaning Necessary?
It’s not necessary to hire a professional cleaning company after an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, but if you do, be sure to let them know the situation when you book the appointment. Professional cleaning companies have specific protocols for dealing with coronavirus disinfecting. If you choose to clean the space yourself, follow these guidelines:
- Pay special attention to the infected employee’s workspace. Other areas of the practice should undergo normal, routine cleaning and disinfecting (as they would at any other time during the pandemic).
- Wear PPE - gloves, a mask, and if possible, a disposable gown.
- Open windows in the area to encourage airflow.
- Begin by cleaning dirty surfaces with soap and water.
- Use a disinfectant that meets EPA criteria for use against COVID-19.
The protocols for minimizing the risk of COVID-19 after an employee has tested positive are similar to those for minimizing risk in general. Encourage employees to wear masks, disinfect hands, surfaces, and equipment between patients, and stay 6 feet apart, where possible. We’re not sure exactly how long the novel coronavirus can live on surfaces, or how much of the virus’ spread can be attributed to contact with common surfaces, so it’s best to disinfect the infected employee’s workspace before it’s used by someone else. Keep in touch with the infected employee, keep them informed of changes within the practice, but more importantly, let them know they have support from the team during this undoubtedly stressful period.