“The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”
– CDC Director Rochelle Walensky
Recent news reports are highlighting the magnitude of the current “unprecedented” COVID-19 surge. While studies are showing the omicron variant may be less severe, it is much more contagious than previous variants. National public health officials are raising concerns over the potential for another strain on health care systems.
Remember, you must report any COVID-19 outbreaks of 10 or more employees at a workplace or worksite with more than 50 employees to L&I within one business day.
NOTE: Some local jurisdictions may have more stringent reporting requirements. King County, for example, requires businesses to report after two confirmed or suspected cases in the workplace. Consult with your local public health department for specific pandemic-related conditions, guidance and requirements in your community. Your local health department can provide you with operational guidance if you have an outbreak at your workplace.
The association’s Office Depot Business Supply program provides members with easy access to N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Don’t forget to ask for a custom discount!
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19
Per existing FDA Food Code requirements, employees who are sick should remain at home. If an employee has have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the employee should isolate for five days and follow the CDC recommended guidance for monitoring symptoms. Determining next steps will depend on the employees vaccination status, symptoms and illness severity.
- Follow the latest CDC and DOH guidance and isolate at home, away from others
- People who test positive should isolate.
- All close contacts should quarantine.
- Wear a mask while inside and ask others in your home to do the same (preferably a KN95, KF-94, or a 3-ply surgical mask, if possible).
- There are often gaps when masks are ill-fitting. Knot ear loops where they join the face to improve the mask fit.
- You may also double mask to tamp down gaps.
- Watch a short video demonstration about how to adjust masks to fit better.
- Ventilate your space as much as you can.
- Set the fan of your heating system to “on” or “high” instead of “auto”.
- If your home has an HVAC system, make sure it has a fresh filter and change it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Open the windows briefly to allow fresh air in, when possible.
- Use WA Notify to report your positive home test, if applicable.
- Reach out to your close contacts and let them know they’ve been exposed and that they should quarantine.
- Stay hydrated, use over the counter medications such as acetaminophen to stay comfortable and manage symptoms.
- Seek medical care if you display the following symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Confusion, Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds (or an abnormally low reading on a pulse oximeter, if you have one).
In addition to any employer benefits offered by your business, provide your employees with state and local (if applicable) paid sick leave benefits.
- L&I: Questions About Paid Sick Leave and Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- ESD: COVID-19 and Paid Leave FAQ
- Seattle Office of Labor Standards: Paid Sick and Safe Time and COVID-19 FAQ
Returning to work (DOH)
A staff member who had confirmed or laboratory probable COVID-19 can return to the workplace when the following criteria are met:
- 10 days since symptom onset, or since positive test specimen collection date if no symptoms are present (up to 20 days for those who are severely ill or severely immunocompromised), AND
- 24 hours after fever resolves without use of fever-reducing medications, AND
- Symptoms have improved
The links below from state and federal agencies provide guidance for employers and employees when a positive COVID-19 test is confirmed.
- DOH: What to do if you test positive for COVID-19
- DOH: Guidance for Non-Health Care Businesses and Organizations during COVID-19
- CDC: Quarantine and Isolation
Updated isolation and quarantine guidance from the CDC/DOH
The following updated isolation and quarantine guidance for the general public was issued by the Washington State Department of Health on Dec. 28 based on updated recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Also check with your local health department about reporting an outbreak at your workplace.
- Shorten the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to five days, if they are asymptomatic on day five, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not related to COVID-19.
- Recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19
- For unvaccinated individuals or those that are more than six months from their original Moderna or Pfizer dose or more than two months after the J&J vaccine and not yet boosted, CDC is recommending quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for another five days.
- Vaccinated individuals who have received their booster do not need to quarantine but should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure.
- If symptoms occur after exposure, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not related to COVID-19.
- When in doubt, get tested on day five and as always, wear a mask when in public spaces after isolation or quarantine are completed. Also be mindful of activities, especially indoors and in crowded settings.
Vaccine locations near you can be found with the DOH Vaccine Locator tool or calling the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 833-829-4357.
- Member toolkit: Paid Family and Medical Leave
- L&I: Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19
The association’s Current Guidance and Requirements page has a wealth of helpful resources to help you operate safely and in compliance with public health orders.