Here's important news for employers that should elicit an update to workplace COVID-19-related safety policies and forms. The CDC recently updated its definition of a close contact as: someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset (or, for more asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
Employers will need to review their COVID-19-related safety policies and forms to align with the CDC's new definition of a close contact. The new definition focuses on cumulative exposure rather than consecutive exposure. For example, if an individual has been exposed at three separate times in a 24-hour period, with each encounter lasting five minutes, this would now qualify as a close contact.
What the New Definition Means
The CDC's updated definition establishes a lower threshold for a required quarantine. Previously, in the event an employee became infected, employers were required to identify other employees who may have worked within six feet of the impacted employee for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before the infected individual showed symptoms. Since the new definition focuses on cumulative exposure time rather than consecutive exposure time, employers will need to carefully look at brief interactions between workers that may occur several times a day, as opposed to one or two prolonged exposures.
The CDC recommends that employers send home any employees who may have been exposed and that those employees practice social distancing and self-monitor for 14 days from the date of possible exposure. According to CDC guidelines, if a business is considered essential then exposed employees can continue to work onsite if they wear a mask and self-monitor.
What Employers Can Do
Employers will need to revise their COVID-19-related safety policies and forms to align with the CDC's new definition of a close contact. Employers should also update contact-tracing questionnaires to reflect the change.
Originally Published By Frankfurt Kurnit, November 2020
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