When Can You Go Back to Work if You've Had the Coronavirus?

The CDC has extensive criteria you must meet to discontinue home isolation and return to work.

Businesses are reopening as states lift lockdown orders, but the coronavirus is still spreading. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says employers have the ability to "prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 within the workplace," if they use best practices and implement preventative guidelines—which include determining when it's safe for an employee to return to work after they've had the coronavirus.

According to the CDC, employers should not let employees return to work "until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met."

Currently, the CDC has different criteria for those who have symptoms and those who have tested positive but remain asymptomatic. However, both cases call for at least 14 days of self-quarantine after exposure and at least 10 days following a patient's first positive coronavirus test or initial onset of symptoms.

"This recommendation will prevent most, but cannot prevent all, instances of secondary spread," the CDC notes. "Employers and local public health authorities can choose to apply more stringent criteria for certain persons where a higher threshold to prevent transmission is warranted."

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For those with symptoms, at least 72 hours need to have passed since recovery, which the CDC defines as "resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms," like cough and shortness of breath. And at least 10 days need to have passed since the patient first began to show symptoms. In addition, the person must provide negative results from a COVID-19 test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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For those who have tested positive but have not shown symptoms, at least 10 days need to have passed since their first positive COVID-19 test. At that point they can then be tested again for COVID-19 and begin the process for returning to work if the results are negative. However, if the person developed coronavirus symptoms at any time after their first positive test result, they must meet the symptom-based criteria.

The CDC says employers also need to protect employees who were potentially exposed to someone who has the coronavirus, as they may be asymptomatic and may also develop symptoms within a few days. These employees should be instructed to stay home for 14 days, working remotely if possible, and to self-monitor for any symptoms that may arise. And for more ways to stay safe at your job after reopening, check out Don't Go Back to Work If Your Office Doesn't Have This One Thing.

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