The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance on April 8, 2020, for employers of “critical infrastructure workers” who may have had exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. For the purpose of ensuring continuity of operations of essential functions, the CDC advises that such workers “may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19” so long as they remain asymptomatic and the employer takes additional precautions.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has developed an advisory list of critical infrastructure workers – individuals who conduct a wide range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability. Industries supported by such workers include healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement and public works.
The CDC interprets a potential exposure as being a household contact or having close contact (within 6 feet) of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Once such conditions are met, and assuming the worker remains asymptomatic, employers are advised to measure the worker’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to the worker starting work. Employers will need to be careful to provide protection and training if another employee will be measuring the returning employee’s temperature and assessing their symptoms.
After the worker commences employment, they should self-monitor their symptoms and wear a face mask at all times for 14 days after their last exposure. In addition, the worker should maintain a social distance of 6 feet from others in the workplace. The employer must make sure all areas of the facility are cleaned and disinfected routinely, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas and shared electronic equipment.
In the event a worker becomes sick during the work day, the CDC advises the employer should send the individual home immediately and clean and disinfect thoroughly all surfaces in their workspace. In addition, the employer should compile a list of individuals who had contact with the ill worker both while he/she exhibited symptoms and during the 2-day period prior to exhibiting symptoms. The CDC considers anyone who had close contact (within 6 feet) with the ill worker would be considered to have been exposed.
The CDC advises employers to implement its recommendations as set forth in previous guidance it issued in March 2020 to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. In its earlier guidance, the CDC provides employers with important information concerning preparation, minimizing the risk of transmission among employees, and maintaining a healthy workplace for all employees.
The CDC’s April 8 guidance is part of the current administration’s efforts to “re-open” the country and address head on the difficulties employers face in trying to return to pre-pandemic production and service levels. Employers involved in these critical infrastructure roles should review the latest CDC guidance in detail to ensure their operations are in compliance.
The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years, and are available to discuss these and other issues. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.