Here's why businesses do not have to tell employees, customers if a worker has COVID-19

ABC11 viewers continue to report businesses are not disclosing when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. You may be surprised to learn they are not required to by law.

"Obviously we want to protect people's personal medical information. So there is not a requirement for an employer to be sharing another employee's health status with them," North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said.

Instead, it's just physicians and testing centers that must report all positive cases to the state and/or local health departments.

With that information, the state and local agencies work to access the risk of close contact with others and inform those people who had direct contact with that person.

If that positive case was in a public setting for an extended period of time, then the public would be alerted. CDC issues new guidance for essential workers during coronavirus pandemic

CDC issues new guidance for essential workers during coronavirus pandemic

"Since the NCDHHS has determined there is community spread of COVID-19 in our state, which means the virus could be anywhere at any time, Wake County no longer conducts broad contact tracing and only alerts the public about situations in which seniors and people with underlying health issues could contract the virus," a county representative said.

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Here are some guidelines the state provides to businesses if one of their employees test positive for COVID-19:

The CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. fever, cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.

If an employee has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever and/or symptoms of respiratory illness such as a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing) or has tested positive for COVID-19, they should follow the isolation guidance from NC DHHS to stay home and away from work until:

  • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared and at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath)

Employers should not require a negative test for COVID-19 from employees who have COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive since testing is being prioritized to individuals at higher risk of severe disease, hospitalized patients and critical workers (healthcare and first responders). Instead, they should follow the guidance above.

If an employee has known close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (such as a family member or roommate), they should remain in quarantine and away from work for at least 14 days from their last contact with the person who tested positive (or 14 days since that person ended isolation per the guidelines mentioned above). If the employee develops symptoms while in quarantine, they should follow the isolation guidance above before returning to work.

At a school, daycare center, office, or other facility that does not house people overnight: It is recommended to close off areas used by the ill persons and wait as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection to minimize potential for exposure to respiratory droplets. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. If possible, wait up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection.

Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas (offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces. More guidance on cleaning can be found here.

Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
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