What If Someone Tests Positive at Work?

How OHL’s team coordinates with employers to keep everyone safe when an employee tests positive for COVID.

COVID isn’t going anywhere, which is why on-site COVID testing is a useful safeguard against lost productivity, ensuring everyone in any given work environment is healthy and that organizations can function safely and smoothly.

One Health Labs has an on-site COVID testing service that integrates seamlessly into any organization to provide reliable, rapid testing. Naturally, sometimes people do test positive, which leads to the question employers may find themselves asking: What should we do when someone tests positive at work?

What to do when an employee tests positive for COVID

If an employee tests positive for COVID at one of OHL’s on-site testing locations, our team immediately contacts the employer’s testing site coordinator or point person to make them aware, as well as the OHL ordering physician, who receives the official test result. From there, the appropriate person from the client’s team — likely an HR lead or the person’s manager — informs the employee of their positive test result.

“When the patient gets informed that they are positive, OHL sends a test report to our ordering physician who either contacts the patient directly or confirms that OHL staff can reach out and counsel the patient about how long they need to quarantine or what are the symptoms they should look for,” says Sepi Naderi, R&D lead and laboratory manager.

Responding immediately and notifying the appropriate officials is important to prevent further spread of the virus. Once informed, businesses and individuals can take reasonable precautions to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. OHL follows the current CDC guidelines for employees and employers and will advise the employer to help the employee identify any close contacts, so they can be notified.

Does your organization need on-site COVID testing? Let’s talk.

What does the employee do?

Once informed, the employee is advised to go home, monitor their symptoms, and notify anyone with whom they have been in close physical proximity in recent days. Per CDC guidelines, that person is advised to isolate for five days and wear a mask for five additional days once they are finished isolating. Close contacts who were exposed should get tested and wear a mask for ten days if they start showing symptoms. If that person also tests positive, they should isolate themselves for five days and continue to wear a mask.

What steps need to be taken to protect other employees?

Employers need to stay current on CDC guidelines and understand the important role they play in maintaining a safe and healthy (and productive) workplace. Clear and supportive workplace policies that are non-punitive will encourage all employees to take the appropriate steps to protect themselves and others. Employers are encouraged to:

  • Provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated or boosted. Additionally, employers are encouraged to advise infected, symptomatic, and exposed employees who are unvaccinated to stay home to prevent further risk of transmission.
  • Make testing accessible to employees. Fully vaccinated people who have been exposed should get tested after three days and wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. Unvaccinated employees should be tested immediately, or if they develop symptoms, or in 5-7 days if they remain asymptomatic.
  • Establish clear distancing and interaction protocols in the workplace. Enable employees to physically distance from one another where possible and as appropriate.
  • Provide flexible work options to limit the number of employees in one place during the workday by offering telework options or staggered schedules.
  • Provide masks and transparent barriers to all employees and improve ventilation where possible.

Employers who follow current CDC guidelines and OSHA best practices and standards are more likely to minimize disruptions to productivity and ensure that employees feel safe and supported at work.