COVID-19 Workplace Exposures

Employer Resources for Prevention, Preparedness, Workplace Exposures, and Outbreak Management

Institute Prevention Practices

Prepare for Exposures and Outbreaks

Identify and Manage Workplace Exposures and Outbreaks

  • Follow the five steps laid out below
  • Maintain confidentiality of positive employees
  • Identify close contacts
  • Initiate communication and reporting protocols
  • For close contacts, ensure timely testing (see Testing Resources) and quarantine
  • Perform enhanced disinfecting
  • At this time, the County of Nevada requires 14 day quarantine. The quarantine period has not been shortened. You may have heard that the CDC has suggested possible strategies for shortening the quarantine period. Nevada County Public Health has evaluated the CDC publication carefully and at this time continues the recommendation that all persons exposed to COVID-19 quarantine for 14 days from the last day of exposure. More information here (English y español).

COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Employer Toolkit

The County of Nevada County Public Health Division recognizes that our community, including employers, plays an important role in protecting public health. We are providing this toolkit to employers to help contain and mitigate any cases of COVID-19 within your workforce. These tools provide guidance on notifying employees of an exposure and help identify workplace exposures. The County greatly appreciated the cooperation of local businesses in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

This guidance is not intended for use in managing or preventing outbreaks in healthcare, congregate living settings, or other workplaces where the California Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard applies.

Step 1: Isolate positive individual and sanitize

Provide instructions to the worker who is positive for COVID-19. 

The worker should be sent home immediately and instructed to isolate. Employers must share the isolation guidance with any lab-confirmed positive employee(s).

"Isolation" is what someone who has a lab-confirmed positive COVID diagnosis is required to do. Because of the overwhelming number of positive cases in our community, people with a positive COVID test may or may not hear from Public Health. Regardless, they are required to isolate per the isolation guidance. Employers need to share the isolation guidance with any lab-confirmed positive employee.

Clean/disinfect workplace where employee(s) with COVID-19 have been at work

Refer to the California Department of Public Health's (CDPH's) Workplace Guidance for detailed guidance.

Step 2: Follow the steps laid out in the State of California's Workplace Guidance

Review and follow the following guidances:

  1. California Department of Public Health's Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace for Employers Guidance
    1. The above CDPH guidance above has 9 steps. Follow the steps outlined in this guidance.
    2. The CDPH guidance says, "Establish if the employer, LHD, or both will conduct interviews of the cases to determine their close contacts." At this time, Nevada County employers are responsible to conduct an interview of positive COVID-19 cases to determine close contacts (see Step 3 below). That information will be submitted to the Public Health Department (see Step 4 below).
    3. Additional steps: Notify Nevada County Public Health of all positive employees and their close contacts via our Workplace Exposure List form (see Step 4 below). Do not wait until there is an "outbreak" (defined as 3 or more cases in a 14 day period).
  2. Employer questions on AB 685 (applies Jan 1, 2021)

Step 3: Identify and Notify Close Contacts

Due to the number of active cases, Nevada County businesses and schools are responsible for their own contact tracing related to their workplace or school exposures. In situations deemed higher risk, Public Health may also engage in contact tracing. As you notify your employees of appropriate isolation and quarantine guidance, let them know they may or may not hear from Public Health. 

If an employer learns that an employee has tested positive, the employer needs to determine which, if any, employees, clients, subcontractors, vendors, visitors, students or other individuals in the workplace had close contact with the positive employee. 

  • Close Contact is defined by CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.  
  • "Quarantine" is what someone who has an exposure to a lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive person is required to do. All Close Contacts (as defined above) should be instructed to quarantine at home for 14 days from their last known contact with the employee with COVID-19. Close contacts should be tested for COVID-19 when possible. Due to the high rates of positives in our community, Public Health will not be able to contact all Close Contacts. Employers must provide the quarantine guidance to all Close Contacts in the workplace, including visitors, subcontractors, employees, clients, etc. All Close Contacts must abide by the quarantine guidance below. 
    1. Quarantine guidance in English
    2. Quarantine guidance in Spanish
    3. Quarantine vs Isolation English, Quarantine vs Isolation Spanish

Each close contact needs to be 1) identified, 2) individually notified of quarantine requirements, and 3) information collected from each contact to complete the Workplace Exposure List (see Step 4 below), and 4) encouraged to get tested.

For an employer, identifying Close Contacts will likely involve gathering information from the COVID-19 positive individual related to the first symptoms, the date of specimen collection for their test, the date of their positive test, and understand all of their Close Contacts for 2 days prior to first symptoms (or specimen collection, if asymptomatic); review of HR or staffing records from your business during their infectious period; review of client or customer interactions with the COVID-positive individual during their infectious period; and other relevant analyses to determine who the Close Contacts are. Because you must protect the confidentiality of the COVID-positive person, you should not directly ask other staff if they were a close contact.

At this time, the County of Nevada requires 14 day quarantine. The quarantine period has not been shortened. You may have heard that the CDC has suggested possible strategies for shortening the quarantine period. Nevada County Public Health has evaluated the CDC publication carefully and at this time continues the recommendation that all persons exposed to COVID-19 quarantine for 14 days from the last day of exposure. More information here.

Maintain Confidentiality

Employers should keep employees’ medical information confidential in accordance with federal and state laws. Do not disclose the identity of the COVID-19 positive worker in your effort to identify close contacts. Please consult with your attorney if you have any questions about applicable employment or privacy laws.

Consider Notification of Employees

Employers can consider notification of employees related to the workplace exposure. Utility of notification depends on factors such as size of organization, number of worksites, nature of work and employee interaction, role of positive employee, etc. Be mindful of maintaining confidentiality of the positive employee(s).

Work Exclusion, Quarantine & Testing Recommendations for Close Contacts

Anyone who had close contact with the person diagnosed with COVID-19 during the exposure period (defined above) should not be allowed at the worksite and should stay at home for 14 days, starting the last day that the person diagnosed with COVID-19 was at work.

All close contacts should get tested if possible. Access to testing may be limited and lab processing times may vary, depending upon demand in the local area. If it is not possible to get tested, employees should be directed to stay at home. Utilize the CDPH Return to Work criteria for guidance to employees to quarantine or isolate at home.

Because lab tests can remain positive long after an individual is no longer infectious, proof of a negative test should not be required prior to returning to the workplace after a documented COVID-19 infection. Rather, symptom- or protocol-based criteria should be used in determining when an employee is safe to return to the workplace (refer to CDPH Return to Work criteria). This does not mean an employer must allow an employee who currently has COVID-19 to return to work before the employee's infection is resolved.

Testing Discrimination and Inappropriate Workplace Testing

As modifications are made to public health directives and more sectors of the economy open with adaptations, it is important that employers do not use testing to impermissibly discriminate against employees who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 (such as by preventing them from resuming work after they can do so in a manner consistent with public health and safety).

More information can be found here: California Department of Public Health Updated COVID-19 Testing Guidance.

General advisory for all employees

All others present at the workplace, but NOT identified as close contacts should continue to follow internal workplace policies for COVID-19 prevention, including adherence to the business’ Social Distancing Protocol.

Step 4: Notify Nevada County Public Health

Submit completed Workplace Exposure List (see below) to Nevada County Public Health via fax to (530) 271-0836. This number is a secure fax line so you can submit the list with appropriate HIPAA protections, as the list contains individual medical information. Please complete your Workplace Exposure List completely prior to submission. The Workplace Exposure List should include all positives and all workplace close contacts of those positives. Submit the completed Workplace Exposure List within 48 hours of notification of COVID exposure.

This information will be monitored by Public Health to determine if there is an outbreak and if further guidance is needed. If there is no outbreak, Public Health may not provide additional guidance beyond what is included here. Although businesses must submit the completed Workplace Exposure List to Public Health, you may not hear back from us.

If you identify additional close contacts or additional staff receive positive test results, revise the list and resubmit with the most current information.

Step 5: Maintain a safe work environment

Do not allow employees to come to work or remain at work if they have any COVID-like symptoms. We continue to see significant transmission and workplace outbreaks as a result of employees coming to work with mild symptoms but assuming that since it's mild, they do not have COVID. 

Employers should not ask that employees have a negative test to return to work. Because dead virus particles remain in a person's body even after they are no longer infectious, the COVID test may still come back as positive for up to 90 days after the person first tested positive. This means the test can’t determine when when someone is no longer contagious. When an employee's isolation is over, they are no longer considered contagious and can return to work.  

 Additional CDC Guidance

Essential Critical Infrastructure:

For "Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers," businesses can utilize workers who are in quarantine and asymptomatic and if the business requires them to continue to function. This only applies to business specifically listed as essential critical infrastructure and for employees who must be in the office/field for the industry to function. If work can happen at home, and the employee is well enough to work, telework should continue. Any quarantined employee who is brought back must remain in quarantine in the rest of their lives and additional considerations are required. This applies ONLY to critical infrastructure industries, as defined in the link above. Additional definitions from the state of California. CDC guidance on this process is here

Still Have Questions?

For questions about how to get a COVID test, general questions about COVID-19, or questions about general COVID guidelines, contact 211 by dialing 2-1-1 or 1-833-DIAL211.

If you have additional questions related to workplace exposures after reviewing these materials, contact Nevada County Public Health at COVIDworkexp@co.nevada.ca.us or call (530) 265-1717.

Include in your message your business name, city, point of contact and contact phone number, and a brief situational update (ex. 3 employees out with fever and cough, one employee reporting a positive COVID-19 lab test).

We will do our best to get back to you within one business day.