CDC Issues Updated Guidance on COVID-19

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a telebriefing (transcript to be uploaded when available) today at 2:00 p.m. CST to provide updated guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic in light of the prevalence of the highly contagious Delta variant. They key points of the CDC’s updated guidance include:

  • New data shows that the COVID-19 Delta variant behaves uniquely differently from the original Alpha variant. Therefore, some vaccinated people who contract the variant can be contagious and spread the disease.
  • The CDC continues to urge all Americans to get vaccinated, emphasizing that increasing the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated is key to defeating COVID-19 variants.
  • The CDC’s guidance for unvaccinated individuals remains the same: continue masking until you are fully vaccinated.
  • The CDC further recommends that fully vaccinated individuals in areas of high or substantial COVID-19 transmission wear masks indoors and in public spaces.
  • The CDC notes that some fully vaccinated persons may choose to wear masks regardless of level of transmission in their area if they or members of their household are immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease, or not fully vaccinated.
  • The CDC recommends that everyone in K-12 school settings (including teachers, staff, students, and visitors) wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC continues to support in-person learning for all students.
  • Leaders in areas of high or substantial COVID-19 transmission should encourage vaccination and universal mask-wearing.

The CDC will continue to update its guidance as necessary in accordance with scientific data or other relevant developments.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about COVID-related guidance. We continue to closely monitor important legal and HR developments in this area, including updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive deeper into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Long Awaited OSHA Guidance to Continue Workplace Health and Safety Measures

On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) with a very narrow scope, focused on the healthcare industry. Fortunately, OSHA also updated its January 29, 2021 guidance for all employers to reflect the increasing prevalence of vaccinations and the lifting of mask orders around the country. (See our prior blog on the January guidance here.) This new guidance provides a helpful reminder for employers to remain steadfast in their many COVID-related health and safety efforts.

As with the January update, this new guidance is not a standard or regulation, and creates no new legal obligations. Nonetheless, it will likely be one yardstick used to measure compliance with OSHA’s “General Duty Clause,” which requires employers to provide workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious harm.

The new guidance specifies ways to protect unvaccinated and other at-risk employees, mitigate the spread of COVID, and encourage vaccinations, including the following:

  • Encourage employees to get vaccinated (See Lake Effect’s prior blog on this issue)
  • Provide employees with paid time off to get vaccinated (See Lake Effect’s prior blog on EPSL leaves for employees to receive or recover from COVID vaccinations)
  • Require unvaccinated employees (and visitors) who are exposed to or experiencing symptoms of COVID to stay home and seek treatment
  • Maintain workplace safety measures for unvaccinated and at-risk workers including physical distancing, physical barriers, reduced employee density in spaces, flexible or staggered work schedules, alternative meeting options, remote work, and the like
  • Provide proper masks to unvaccinated and at-risk workers when working indoors. OSHA noted that unvaccinated persons who are not otherwise at-risk do not need to wear a mask outdoors, unless otherwise required by federal, state, or local requirements
  • Educate and train employees on COVID preventive measures and practices
  • Encourage unvaccinated visitors, clients, and guests to wear masks when onsite
  • Maintain ventilation systems to minimize transmission and spread of COVID
  • Follow CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations
  • Implement a process for employees to anonymously express concerns about COVID safety practices and ensure that they are not discriminated or retaliated against in any way
  • Record and report COVID infections and deaths consistent with applicable OSHA requirements (See Lake Effect’s blogs on this issue)

Employers should work closely with legal counsel to understand all requirements and implement a COVID-19 workplace prevention program consistent with this new OSHA guidance and any applicable local guidance and orders. Lake Effect is here to help you through this process and ensure that you are taking all possible steps to provide a workplace free from the recognized hazards created by the COVID.

We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253

CDC Updates Guidance on COVID-19 Quarantine

On December 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on how long a person should quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID-19. “Quarantine” keeps someone who has been in close contact with a known COVID-19 case away from others to prevent the spread of the virus.

The CDC’s current recommendation is that an exposed individual should quarantine for 14 days after last exposure. The CDC continues to endorse its existing 14-day quarantine recommendation. However, the CDC’s new guidance recognizes that reducing the length of quarantine in some instances may make it easier for people to quarantine by reducing economic hardship if they cannot work during that time. A shorter quarantine period may also reduce stress on the public health system.
Under its new guidance, the CDC provides two additional, abbreviated options for the length of quarantine. Assuming a person does not develop any symptoms of the virus:

  • Quarantine may end on the 10th day after exposure without testing
  • Quarantine may end on the 7th day after exposure with the receipt of a negative test result

After ending quarantine under either abbreviated option, a person should continue to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms until 14 days after exposure, wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from others, and take other recommended mitigation measures. If symptoms develop at any time, the person should immediately self-isolate.

Finally, the CDC guidance reaffirms that local public health authorities make final decisions about how long quarantines should last in their respective communities, based on local conditions and needs. Businesses and organizations should thus be aware of the CDC’s updated guidance, but they should continue to follow the specific quarantine recommendations of their local health departments.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about protecting your workforce and complying with CDC guidelines, state, and local public health orders. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, including COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Updated CDC and OSHA Guidance Regarding Employees with COVID-19 at Worksite

Two government agencies recently released updated “interim guidance” for employers responding to COVID-19 in the workplace. This is important information for employers in essential and critical businesses who still have active workplaces. On April 8, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control provided new guidance on treatment of workers with suspected or confirmed exposure to COVID-19. On April 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new guidance recording cases of COVID-19.

New CDC Guidance:

  • The CDC advises that “critical infrastructure workers” may continue working following exposure to COVID-19, provided they are asymptomatic and additional precautions are taken.
  • Critical infrastructure workers include workers in food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, information technology, transportation, energy, government facilities, janitorial staff, law enforcement, 911 center employees, hazardous materials responders, and Fusion center employees.
  • Potential exposures are defined as being a household contact or being within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.  The contact must have been within 48 hours before individual became symptomatic.

Additional precautions that an employer should take include:

  • Pre-screening employees by taking temperature and assessing symptoms before shifts begin.  Ideally, this should be done before a worker enters the worksite.
  • Asking an employee to self-monitor both during and between shifts, following the employer’s occupational health program.
  • Requiring exposed employees to wear a mask at work for 14 days after exposure. Employers can provide masks or employees can wear their own.
  • Requiring all employees to abide by the 6-foot social distancing rule during shifts, as permissible. Employees should not share equipment that must be placed near their mouths or noses.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting all workspaces on a frequent and regular basis, and increasing air exchanges in rooms.
  • If an employee becomes symptomatic at work, they should be sent home immediately.  Employers should track all other employees who had contact with the ill employee in the 48 hours before becoming symptomatic.  Any employee who was within 6 feet of the ill employee should be considered to be exposed to COVID-19. Keep in mind that employee privacy protections still apply.

New OSHA Guidance:

  • If an employer can identify that an employee contracted COVID-19 through worksite exposure, the employer must record that injury in OSHA logs as a “work-related illness.”  COVID-19 is considered a recordable illness and employers must record cases of COVID-19 if the following are true:
    • The employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19;
    • The illness is considered to be work-related; and
    • An illness is considered to be work-related, “if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness. Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment,” unless an exception is met.
    • The illness involves one or more of the recording criteria, including medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.
  • However, because it may be difficult for employers to determine if an employee with COVID-19 contracted COVID-19 at work, OSHA will not enforce its record-keeping requirements on employers to make “work-relatedness” determinations, except when there is objective evidence that the exposure was work-related and that evidence is reasonably available to the employer.
    • Note: this exception applies only to employers outside of the healthcare industry, first responder organizations and correctional facilities.

The legal and HR team at Lake Effect is closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace and will continue to provide our clients with updates as they are available. Check out our COVID-19 resource page for all of our pandemic-related legal updates and HR best practices. The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

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