Managing COVID-19 cases and exposures in your business

This is a guest blog by Greater Mankato Growth member, Mankato Clinic.

As the Greater Mankato region experiences an increase in COVID-19 cases, business owners and managers have many questions and concerns on how to stay open and keep customers, staff and our community safe.

Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a time-based strategy versus a test-based strategy to determine when employees with COVID-19 and coworkers who have been exposed can return to work.

Let’s break it down. The Minnesota Department of Health has issued guidance to better understand what to do if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Employee with COVID-19

If you have an employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 based on a lab test or symptoms, make sure they do not return to work too soon. Employees should stay home until all 3 things are true: they feel better; iyo it has been 10 days since they first felt sick, iyo they have had no fever for the last 3 days without using medicine that lowers fevers. This means they might be out of work for more than 10 days.

Coworkers in close contact

Identify close work contacts of the employee with COVID-19. Close contact is defined as people who have had at least 15 minutes of contact within 6 feet of the person who has COVID-19, beginning 2 days before the employee developed symptoms.

Exposed employees are to stay home for 14 days from the last day they were exposed to the person with COVID-19. If your business is a critical business, exposed employees can return to work 10 days from the last day they were exposed.

If coworkers become sick with a fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat or loss of taste or smell, they should continue to stay home and follow guidelines above for employees that are positive or have symptoms of COVID-19.

Employees who have a household member with COVID-19

As the cases rise in the region, you may have employees with a household member who has COVID-19. These employees must also self-isolate and stay home for 14 days from the last day they were exposed to the person with COVID-19.

Testing employees

MDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a time-based strategy for returning to work. If you are requesting COVID-19 testing for your employees who were exposed, please understand that the COVID-19 test result is only a snapshot of particular day and point in time. Today’s test may come back negative; a future test could be positive. If an employee test is negative that does not mean they are safe to return to work before the 14 days end.

Instead, track the number of days that employees need to stay home.

We understand the staffing impact for many businesses. It’s especially difficult for small businesses, but staying home is the only vaccine we have right now.

Returning to work

Screen all returning employees to make sure they do not have symptoms and are feeling OK. No medical examination, testing or official letter is needed to return to work.

Keep your business safe

Screen your employees and visitors entering buildings by taking temperatures and asking about symptoms. Follow MDH safety guidelines in the workplace including:

  • Practice social distancing of 6 feet or more.
  • Wear facemasks.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as shared workstations, telephones, handrails and doorknobs.
  • If employees develop symptoms, promptly send sick employees home.

Mankato Clinic Resources

James Dungan, M.D., Mankato Clinic Occupational Medicine, Adams Street

COVID-19 Hotline – 507-389-8548: If you or your employees develop symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath (new or worsening in the last 3 weeks) sore throat, chills and shaking, full body muscle aches, new or worsening headaches or new loss of taste or smell, call the hotline. You may also call the hotline for an appointment to be tested if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. An appointment is required to be tested for COVID-19 at Mankato Clinic. Please call the hotline first.

Occupational Medicine: If you need help clarifying this guidance, please contact the Mankato Clinic Occupational Medicine Department at 507-625-7684. We are here to help.  

Stay well and stay safe.

By James Dungan, M.D., Mankato Clinic Occupational Medicine, Adams Street