The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a move on Wednesday afternoon that many had expected.
CDC Director Robert Redfield announced that the agency has new guidance for essential workers. That replaces previous guidance that had asked workers to isolate for 14 days if they were exposed to someone who is infected with COVID-19.
The new guidance allows many employees in essential fields of work, such as healthcare, policing, and food supply, to continue working even if they have have come in contact with someone who has coronavirus.
Workers in the aforementioned fields are now asked to:
-Pre-screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to the person starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
-Regular monitoring: As long as the employee does not have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
-Wear a mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers may issue face masks, or they can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
-Social distance: The employee should maintain six feet of space and practice social distancing as work duties permit.
-Disinfect and clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment frequently.
“A potential exposure means being a household contact or having close contact within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19,” the CDC said. “The timeframe for having contact with an individual includes the period of time of 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, who serves as the White House’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator, explained the change by saying, “It looks at degree of exposure and really making it clear that exposure occurs within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes, so really understanding where you shouldn’t be within 6 feet of people right now.”
She continued, “But if you’re in a work situation where you have to be, there will be a series of recommendations that if you had had a significant exposure of what specifically to do, and if you’ve had a less exposure what to do.”