On Wednesday, April 8th the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines to ensure continuity of operations of essential functions. The guidelines allow critical infrastructure workers to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and employers implement additional precautions to protect them and the community. Such additional precautions include taking employees’ temperature before entering the workplace, requiring wearing a face mask at all times, and practicing social distancing at work as much as possible.
Under the previously issued CDC guidance, such workers were advised to self-quarantine for 14 days if they were exposed to someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Critical infrastructure workers include workers in the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the Department of Homeland Security, including Commercial Facilities, Communications, Critical Manufacturing, Energy, Financial Services, Food and Agriculture, Healthcare, Information Technology and Transportation Systems.
A potential exposure means being a household contact or having close contact within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The timeframe for having contact with an individual includes the period of time of 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic.
Additional precautions: Critical Infrastructure workers who have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic should adhere to the following practices prior to and during their work shift:
- Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
- Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
- Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can provide facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
- Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet separation and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
- Disinfect and Clean Workspaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, and shared electronic equipment routinely.
If the employee becomes sick during the day, they should be sent home immediately. Surfaces in their workspace should be cleaned and disinfected in accordance with the CDC’s guidance for cleaning and disinfecting your facility. Information on persons who had contact with the ill employee during the time the employee had symptoms and 2 days prior to symptoms should be compiled. Others at the facility with close contact within 6 feet of the employee during this time would be considered exposed.
ADDITIONAL WORKPLACE SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS FOR ALL EMPLOYERS
All employers inside and outside of critical infrastructure sectors should implement the CDC’s general guidance to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, including the following:
- Employees should not share headsets or other objects that are near mouth or nose.
- Employers should increase the frequency of cleaning commonly touched surfaces.
- Employees and employers should consider pilot testing the use of face masks to ensure they do not interfere with work assignments.
- Employers should work with facility maintenance staff to increase air exchanges in room.
Employees should physically distance when they take breaks together. Stagger breaks and don’t congregate in the break room, and don’t share food or utensils.
A helpful reference chart from the CDC for workers and employers is included below.
Please contact us if you have questions or concerns.
Ann K. Sullivan, Esq. ([email protected])
Deborah Y. Collins, Esq. ([email protected])
Sybil L. Spurgeon, Esq. ([email protected])
Melissa Morris Picco, Esq. ([email protected])