CDC Changes Return to Work Guidance for Employers

Last week, the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) issued important changes to its guidance to employers, including modifying the criteria used to determine when an employee can be allowed back to work after testing positive for COVID-19.  Employers should immediately change its COVID-19 plans and modify its return to work policies accordingly.  Here are the important updates:

  • The “symptom-based” strategy for discontinuing isolation and precautions for individuals with COVID-19 changed. For non-healthcare setting, the CDC now recommends that individuals with COVID-19 remain in home isolation until:
    • At least 10 days* have passed since the onset of symptoms; and
    • At least 24 hours have passed since the resolution of the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications; and
    • Other symptoms have improved
  • Before the change, the CDC had recommended at least 72 hours pass from the moment the fever resolved without the use of medication. The CDC also removed the word “respiratory” from the requirement to address the expanding list of symptoms associated with COVID-19.
  • Although the CDC still recommends a 10 day period lapse from symptoms onset before returning to work, the CDC added an exception of recommending isolation period for up to 20 days after symptom onset for individuals with severe to critical illness or who are severely immunocompromised.
  • The CDC also de-emphasized the use of the “test-based” strategy. It does not recommend using a test-based strategy except under the following circumstances.
    • To discontinue isolation of individuals who are severely immunocompromised; or
    • To discontinue isolation (or other precautions) earlier than would occur using a symptom-based strategy.
  • The CDC explained its recommendation to rely on symptom-based strategy rather than the testing-based strategy for ending isolation is based on the lack of evidence that clinically recovered individuals with persistently detectable COVID-19 have transmitted the virus to others.
  • In practice, the test-based strategy may be impractical anyway, given the delays in COVID-19 test results.
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