New CDC Guidance on Keeping #Coronavirus-Exposed Employees Working and Possible Impacts on Paid Emergency Sick Leave

As of April 8, 2020, the CDC is advising that critical infrastructure workers remain working after actual or potential coronavirus exposure.  The advisement includes protective measures that such workers are to take and provides for them to go home immediately if they develop coronavirus symptoms.   The new interim guidance applies to workers in all 16 sectors that are considered critical infrastructures.  The interim guidance is online at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/critical-workers/implementing-safety-practices.html, and it states, in part, as follows:

To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.

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.

Critical Infrastructure workers who have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic should adhere to the following practices prior to and during their work shift: 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 issue facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
  • Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
  • Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.

This interim guidance pertains to critical infrastructure workers, including personnel in 16 different sectors of work including:

  • Federal, state, & local law enforcement
  • 911 call center employees
  • Fusion Center employees
  • Hazardous material responders from government and the private sector
  • Janitorial staff and other custodial staff
  • Workers – including contracted vendors – in food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, informational technology, transportation, energy and government facilities

The list of all 16 of the critical infrastructures is online at: https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19. Though not specifically referenced in the interim guidance, the list of all 16 critical infrastructures includes health care workers.

This interim guidance may impact employees’ eligibility for compensation under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) where “The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19” if the health care provider’s advice cited the old CDC guidance as the reason to self-quarantine. The EPSLA is online at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22hr+6201%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=2.

This interim guidance is subject to change at any time, as are the criteria for eligibility for compensation under the EPSLA.

This post is not legal advice, and should not be relied on.  For more information, please contact Karen Sutherland (ksutherland@omwlaw.com), Beth Van Moppes (bvanmoppes@omwlaw.com), or VaLiesha Brown (vbrown@omwlaw.com) in our Seattle office, or Erin McCool (emccool@omwlaw.com) or Gil Sparks (gsparks@omwlaw.com) in our Wenatchee office.