CDC Guidance Modifies COVID-19 Recommendations for Essential Workers

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

April 16, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising that critical infrastructure workers be permitted to work following potential COVID-19 exposure, provided they remain symptom-free and employers take additional safety precautions.

Under the CDC's guidance, potential exposure means being a household contact, or having close contact (within six feet), of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The timeframe for having contact includes the 48 hours before the infected individual became symptomatic.

The guidance applies only to essential workers, such as:

  • 911 call center employees;
  • Federal, state and local law enforcement;
  • Health care workers;
  • Food supply chain employees; and
  • Janitorial staff.

While these essential workers may continue to work following a potential exposure, they may do so only provided that:

  • They wear a face mask within the workplace for 14 days after their last exposure;
  • Their employer takes their temperature and assesses their symptoms prior to beginning a shift; and
  • They maintain six feet and practice social distancing as their work duties permit.

The guidance instructs that if an employee becomes sick during the work day, the employer should send them home immediately and ensure that their workspace is cleaned and disinfected. Also, employers should then compile information on persons who had contact with the ill employee during the time the employee had symptoms, as well as two days prior to the onset of the symptoms.

Prior to this guidance, the CDC had recommended that all workers isolate at home for 14 days after being close to anyone suspected of having the coronavirus.