Covid-19 and The Workplace: Tips for EmployersOct 13, 2021 09:27AM ● By Rachel Brown, MD
Since the beginning of the pandemic, my team and I have been helping employers mitigate the virus to help keep their workplaces safe.
Below are some common questions I’ve received from employers.
What are the rules regarding Covid-19 exposure?
It does get a little tricky now that we have different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated folks. Here is the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of Sept. 1, 2021.
If the employee is Covid positive. If someone has been diagnosed with Covid-19, he or she should isolate at home for 10 days from the start of their symptoms, or, if they don’t have symptoms, from the date of their test. Isolate means stay at home (separated from others in your household) and do not go in public places.
If the employee has been exposed to Covid-19. If exposed to Covid-19, vaccinated folks do not need to quarantine. They’re encouraged to wear a mask for 14 days when they’re around people, which they’re encouraged to do anyway, and to monitor for symptoms.
The CDC says if you want to check at day three to five and do a test in these asymptomatic vaccinated exposures, you can do that, too. But vaccinated folks don’t need to quarantine if they’ve had close contact with a known Covid-positive person.
Unvaccinated folks do need to quarantine and there are three acceptable strategies:
The first is to quarantine for 14 days. It’s the safest strategy to mitigate outbreaks.
The second is to quarantine for 10 days. This is still a very safe way to mitigate outbreaks.
You can shorten the quarantine time to seven days if the person who is exposed has a test on day five of their quarantine (after being exposed to the known Covid-positive contact) and that test is negative.
What if the Covid exposure occurs within your home?
If an unvaccinated employee has a child at home who’s Covid-positive, quarantine should start following the last day of exposure (when the employee is likely to no longer get the virus). So, the 14-, 10- or seven-day quarantine starts after the child’s 10 days of isolation.
If your employee is vaccinated and their child has Covid, they do not need to quarantine but should wear a mask and watch for symptoms.
What can we do to help stop the pandemic?
To stop a pandemic – and prevent a virus from mutating – you have to stop transmission. To stop transmission, get vaccinated or wear a mask.
I encourage you to examine your masking policies. If you have lifted masking requirements and have not monitored who’s unvaccinated, that means your unvaccinated employees are at a much higher risk of getting Covid and that your workforce is at a much higher risk of having an outbreak and missing work. Unvaccinated employees should also be social distancing.
Bottom line, to protect yourself, get vaccinated. To protect everyone else, wear a mask. And for the greater good, do both.
How do we address vaccine hesitancy?
I’m hearing from organizational leaders about their frustration with low vaccination numbers. They know that if they had a higher rate of vaccination among their workforce, they would feel more comfortable about the health and safety of their employees, as well as mitigate loss of productivity.
Here are a few things you can do:
Continue to have forums. Persistent messaging has been shown to be the best way to convince people to get the vaccine. Allow opportunity for real, true, accurate information to be shared with your workforce – not the misinformation that’s become prevalent. Give your employees an opportunity to ask questions of an expert. We are happy to help you with that.
Find champions in your organization. Find folks who have gotten a vaccine who are influential peers in your organization and have personal stories to tell. We’re finding that a lot of this vaccine hesitancy can be reversed through very intimate, personal conversations and connection.
Encourage PCP visits. Primary care physicians and OB/GYN doctors are influential. People trust their doctors. Anything you can do to incentivize your workforce to visit their PCP and get those questions answered has been important.
Avoid a divisive culture. Keep an eye out for a divisive “vaccinated against unvaccinated” culture. Please do what you can to be aware of and mitigate anger and frustration among the groups as people get fearful and tired of this pandemic.
For updates on how to mitigate the pandemic as well as other health and wellness tips, employers can check out our monthly videos at PrismaHealth.org/WorkplaceSafety.