Workplace Exposure Steps

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 lab result 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 detail guidance.

Step 2: Follow State Workplace Guidance

Activate your businesses' Preparedness Plan.

Review and follow the following guidances:

  1. California Department of Public Health's Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace for Employers Guidance
    1. This guidance 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, employers are responsible to conduct 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 spreadsheet (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 need 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. 

Each close contacts need to be 1) identified, 2) individually notified of quarantine requirements, and 3) information collected from each contact to complete the Workplace Exposure Toolkit spreadsheet (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 48 hours 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.

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 affected employees.

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 immediately, 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: Report

Notify Nevada County Public Health

Submit completed Workplace Exposure Toolkit spreadsheet to Nevada County Public Health via fax to: (530) 271-0836. This fax is a secure fax line so you can submit the spreadsheet, which has medical information, safely via this number. This spreadsheet should include all positives and all workplace close contacts of those positives. Please complete this spreadsheet completely prior to submission. Submit spreadsheet 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 spreadsheet to Public Health, you may not hear back from us.

If you have additional questions related to workplace exposures after reviewing these materials, contact Nevada County Public Health at (530) 265-1450 and leave a message for the Business Exposure Support Team.