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When you can return to work in Spokane County after COVID-19 diagnosis, exposure

The guidelines are meant to help people and businesses make decisions regarding testing, quarantine/isolation and the return to work for non-healthcare personnel.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Regional Health District released its guidelines for how employees and employers should handle returning to work after testing positive for coronavirus.

The guidelines are meant to help people and businesses make decisions regarding testing, quarantine/isolation and the return to work for non-healthcare personnel.

SRHD listed three scenarios:

1. Test Positive for COVID-19

If someone tests positive, SRHD recommends staying home. Do not go to work, school or any public areas. Only leave the house to get medical care. Avoid using public transportation, rideshares or taxis. Ask friends or family to do your shopping or use a grocery delivery service.

SRHD also recommends isolating yourself if you test positive or have symptoms of coronavirus. This means you should stay away from others, including people in your household. It’s recommended that you stay in a specific room away from other people and use a separate bathroom if possible.

Symptomatic persons with COVID-19 can return to work after:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; AND
  • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms which may exceed the 10 days since symptoms first appeared.

Asymptomatic persons with confirmed COVID-19 can return to work after:

  • At least 10 days have passed since the positive laboratory test and the person remains asymptomatic
  • Asymptomatic persons who test positive and later develop symptoms should follow the guidance for symptomatic persons

RELATED: Wait times for COVID-19 test results increase in Spokane County: What we know today

2. Suspected COVID-19 and/or exposure without the use of proper personal protective equipment

This is someone who thinks they may have COVID-19 but has not been tested for COVID-19, and/or someone who has been exposed to a person with COVID-19 or lives in an area with local or widespread transmission.

SRHD recommends contacting your healthcare provider to get tested if you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and/or you have symptoms. The best times for COVID-19 testing is 4-7 days after exposure. If you have symptoms, you should be tested right away and isolate yourself from others.

If you think you may have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive person, SRHD recommends quarantining for 14 days. If you test positive or develop symptoms during the 14-day period, you should isolate and follow the instructions for isolation laid out in scenario one.

If you test negative during the 14-day quarantine, you must remain in quarantine until the end of your 14th day. If you feel well and have not tested positive by the end of your 14th day, your quarantine period is over. SRHD recommends repeating this cycle of quarantine every time you have exposure without wearing proper PPE.

Symptomatic persons suspected COVID-19 can return to work after:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; AND
  • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) which may exceed the 10 days since symptoms first appeared.

Asymptomatic persons with a known exposure to a person with COVID-19 without appropriate PPE:

  • These persons should neither work in critical infrastructure nor be healthcare workers.
  • These persons should not return to work and should self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.
  • Of note, if a person is tested for COVID-19 during the 14-day quarantine period, a negative test result would not change or decrease the time a person is monitored.     

Asymptomatic persons who are not healthcare personnel, but work in critical infrastructure, and who have a known exposure to a person with COVID-19:

  • These persons are recommended to self-quarantine for 14 days unless a replacement cannot be found. If this is not possible, the individual and employer should follow the CDC guidance for return to work
  • Of note, if a person is tested for COVID-19 during the 14-day quarantine period, a negative test result would not change or decrease the time a person is monitored.

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3. Immediate Household Member Exposure to COVID-19 Positive Case

This is someone who has an immediate family or household member who suspects they may have COVID-19 but has not been tested for COVID-19

SRHD again recommends contacting your healthcare provider for a coronavirus test within four to seven days after exposure to a the household member who tested positive.

If a child is sick, SRHD recommends one adult should plan to be the primary caregiver, isolate within the home and stay with the child, except to get medical care. Adults should again stay separated from others in a specific room.

SRHD recommends a time-based return to work that is determined based on a person’s health status described below:

  • If your family member tests negative for COVID-19, you are free to return to work but continue to monitor yourself and your family for symptoms. If you develop symptoms, please follow the instructions in scenario (2) Suspected COVID-19 or Exposure Without Use of Proper PPE above.
  • If a child tests positive for COVID-19, the designated primary caregiver and child will need to isolate for the recommended time to avoid spreading illness. Other household members will need to follow the instructions in scenario (2) Suspected COVID-19 or exposure above.
  • If household adults test positive for COVID-19, they will need to isolate away from the rest of the family and follow the instructions in scenario (1) Test Positive for COVID-19 section above. 

Return to work practices and work restrictions for people who are not healthcare personnel who complete the above conditions can return to work while observing the following actions:

  • Wear a face covering if physical distancing cannot be maintained in the workplace, per current CDC guidelines.
    • Cloth face coverings are appropriate for persons who are not healthcare personnel and are recommended by CDC to help prevent asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 in settings where physical distancing cannot be practiced.
  • Adhere to hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette in CDC’s interim infection control guidance (e.g., cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, dispose of tissues in waste receptacles).
  • Self-monitor for symptoms and seek re-evaluation from occupational health if respiratory symptoms recur or worsen. CDC guidance for discontinuation of home isolation for persons with COVID-19 infection not in a healthcare setting can be used in conjunction with this guidance for returning to work and can be found here.

RELATED: WHO warns the coronavirus pandemic is worsening globally

SRHD said this time-based strategy for returning to work means the science supports a person no longer being able to spread the illness to others after certain time intervals have passed. It is the primary strategy recommended by the CDC for guidance on safely returning to work. SRHD said it does not recommend using a test-based strategy for returning to work after a COVID-19 infection.