Coronavirus in the Workplace

CDC Updates COVID-19 Guidelines

By Amelia J. Holstrom - Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.

August 19, 2022

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 guidance in light of the current status of the pandemic.  Just last week, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) followed in the EEOC’s footsteps providing some new guidelines for employers and individuals.  Here are the highlights.

Known Exposures to COVID-19

Pursuant to the new guidance, an individual with a known exposure to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, is not required to quarantine.  This is a significant departure from previous guidance that articulated different quarantine rules for individuals based on vaccination status.  Under the new guidance, individuals with a known exposure to COVID-19 should wear a high-quality mask in public at all times and when around others in their home; refrain from going places where masking is not possible, including travel and public transportation; and for 10 days after the last known exposure, take extra precautions around those at risk of severe disease.

Additionally, the guidance provides that an individual should get tested, whether they have symptoms or not, at least 5 full days after exposure. If negative, the person should continue to wear a mask in public through day 10.  If at any point during the 10 day period the person develops symptoms, they should test immediately.  If an individual tests positive, they must immediately following the isolation guidance.

Isolation Guidance is Clarified

The new CDC guidance continues to recommend that if someone tests positive for COVID-19, they stay home for at least 5 days from their positive test or onset of symptoms (whichever came first) and wear a high-quality mask when they must be around others in the home. The guidance also reiterates that if someone is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication and their symptoms are either improving or they never had them, isolation may end after 5 days, in most circumstances.  However, the person should continue to mask when around others, at home and in public, through day 10, with a new, limited exception.  The new CDC guidance provides that if an individual has two sequential negative antigen tests at least 48 hours apart, they may remove their mask sooner than day 10.

The CDC guidance provided clarification on the isolation protocols for those with moderate (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing) or severe (symptoms required hospitalization) COVID-19 illness and those with a weakened immune system.   Individuals with moderate or severe COVID-19 illness, or a weakened immune system, must isolate for 10 days, rather than 5, and wear a high-qualify mask when around others. The guidance also recommends that those with severe illness and weakened immune systems consult with their medical provider before ending isolation.

Returning Symptoms, Social Distancing, and More

The CDC also addressed what to do if symptoms worsen after someone ends isolation.  In those instances, the person should restart their isolation immediately and consult with a healthcare provider.

Maintaining 6 feet for social distancing purposes was also eliminated. The CDC noted that physical distancing is just one way to help reduce the risk of spread.  The CDC emphasizes that individuals should consider the particular setting, community transmission levels, and ventilation when determining whether physical distancing is necessary.

The guidance continues to recommend that persons in certain high-risk settings test regularly as part of a screening testing program.  It also recommends that individuals consider testing before they have contact with someone at high risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

Impact on State and Local Rules

The CDC guidance is not a law. According to the CDC, the guidance is meant to supplement any federal, state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.  In other words, when another law or regulation imposes requirements, those laws and regulations must be followed.

Employers should continue to keep apprised of any updates issued regarding COVID-19 that may impact their business and adjust their policies and procedures, as appropriate.

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