My vaccinated employee had close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Should s/he quarantine?

Good question.

Oh, you want me to answer? Fine, I’m up to it.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — perhaps you’ve heard of them — updated this guidance entitled “When You Can be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19.”

Up until then, the CDC recommended that anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after their last exposure to that person.

There was one exception:

  • Someone who has COVID-19 illness within the previous 3 months and
  • Has recovered and
  • Remains without COVID-19 symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath

Now, there is another exception. Someone who has been fully vaccinated within the last three months and shows no symptoms of COVID-19 need not quarantine.

Employer takeaway.

So, if an employee reports to you that s/he has COVID-19, you will still conduct employee contact tracing, among the other remedial steps. As part of contact tracing, ask whether co-workers in close contact are fully vaccinated. If they say yes, you’ll want to demand proof.

(Don’t request any additional medical information, and safeguard whatever information employees provide. Some states may have privacy laws implicated too. Check with your employment counsel.)

If employees provide proof, have them certify that they are not suffering any COVID-19 symptoms, and then they can come back to work. Otherwise, they quarantine consistent with CDC guidelines.

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