1. CDC Background

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) is a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. It is the agency responsible for providing guidance regarding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This is a high-level summary of the CDC’s guidance for employers. Like other information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the information provided may change as further developments occur. As is clear from most CDC pronouncements regarding COVID-19, a critical goal is to stop the spread of the virus. Many of the protocols discussed below are premised on the performance of duties at an employer’s worksite and must be considered in light of the new reality that many employees are currently working remotely. The CDC breaks down steps employers can take to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and lower the impact on their workplace into three different areas: (1) reduce transmission among employees; (2) maintain healthy business operations; and (3) maintain a healthy work environment.

2. Reduce Transmission Among Employees

The CDC provides an assortment of recommendations that employers should consider to try to reduce transmission of COVID-19 among employees, including:

• Actively encourage sick employees to stay home

• Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work

• Separate sick employees

• Educate employees about how they can reduce the spread of COVID-19

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, the CDC recommends that employers inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The fellow employees should then self-monitor for symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath).

If an employee contracts COVID-19, the CDC provides guidance for when the individual may be discharged from the hospital or discontinue at home isolation. Employers are advised to review this guidance prior to permitting any employee who contracts COVID-19 to return to the workplace.

3. Maintain Healthy Business Operations

The CDC identifies several recommendations for employers to try to maintain healthy business operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

• Identify a workplace coordinator responsible for COVID-19 issues

• Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices

• Determine how to operate if absenteeism spikes

• Consider establishing policies and practices for social distancing

In this guidance, the CDC specifically recommends that employers not require employees to present a positive COVID-19 test result or medical note to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or return to work given how busy healthcare providers’ offices are at this time.

4. Maintain A Healthy Work Environment

The CDC also provides considerations for employers to help maintain a healthy work environment, including:

• Consider improving engineering controls using the building ventilation system

• Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene for employees, customers, and worksite visitors

• Perform routine environmental cleaning

• Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility

• Advise employees before traveling to take additional preparations

• Limit in-person meetings and gatherings

If an employee or visitor to a workplace is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, the CDC provides specific cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

Given the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC is regularly updating its guidance. Employers are encouraged to talk with their legal and health advisors and to monitor the CDC website for updates.

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