Return to Work

Return to Work

After a positive case

There are multiple options for discontinuing isolation. The most conservative is to wait 10 days from the start of symptoms or positive test (if other criteria for ending isolation are met) before returning the employee to the worksite. However, for lower risk workplaces (offices, outdoor low-density worksites), a shortened isolation period may be considered if the employee can be masked at all times.

Return to work for higher-risk worksites: After 10 days of isolation, if symptoms have improved, there has been no fever x 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication, the employee is not immunocompromised, and there has been no severe illness.

Return to work for lower-risk worksites (not including maritime, crowded worksites, or congregate living sites): After 5 days if the employee has been asymptomatic the entire time and remains masked at all times until 10 days of isolation. As an additional consideration, they would be tested at day 5 with a rapid antigen test and return only if negative. If the employee develops symptoms after day 5 or the rapid antigen test is still positive, they should complete a full 10 days of isolation.

If someone is symptomatic at day 5, it is recommended they complete a full 10 days of isolation.

After a close contact exposure

The decision depends on a person’s vaccination status and the worksite. The most conservative strategy (for maritime, crowded, congregate living and highest risk worksites or workers) would be to quarantine at home for 10 days with testing on day 5.

For lower risk worksites, like an office, if a worker is up to date on vaccinations or has recovered from COVID-19 in the prior 90 days, they may consider continuing to work during quarantine if they can be masked at all times and remain asymptomatic.

If the worker is not up to date on vaccinations and hasn’t recovered from COVID-19 in the prior 90 days, they should quarantine at home for at least 5 days. They may return to work if they can be masked at all times for the full 10 days and remain asymptomatic. Note: this strategy is not recommended for a maritime or high-risk worksite. A full 10 day quarantine is recommended in those settings.

What to do if someone develops symptoms during quarantine?

It is important to remember that the point of quarantine is to observe for the development of symptoms. If someone develops symptoms, they should test with a viral test. If it is positive, they should begin an isolation period. If it is negative, they complete the full quarantine period. If using antigen tests, make sure to repeat the test after 24 hours.

After developing symptoms without a known exposure and testing negative

If an employee develops symptoms, but does not have a known COVID exposure, they should test for COVID with a viral test. If that test is negative, they can return to work if:

    • If using a rapid antigen test, should repeat test after 24 hours
    • No fever within the past 24 hours (without medication) and symptoms have improved or resolved
    • If symptoms continue, they should retest at least 24 hours after the first test
    • Any employee with respiratory symptoms should be masked at work at all times

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