What to Do if an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

COVID-19, Employee Benefits, Property & Casualty

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 are rising across the country, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predict that up to 214 million Americans could be infected over the course of the epidemic.

With numbers that high, it’s very possible that an employee at your organization may be infected with COVID-19 during this pandemic. As an employer, it’s important to know the steps you should take to protect your organization, the affected employee, and the rest of your team if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 while at work.


Educate staff on cleaning protocols

Employers should develop policies for worker protection and provide training to all cleaning staff on site prior to providing cleaning tasks. Training should include when to use personal protective equipment (PPE), what PPE is necessary, how to properly don (put on), use, and doff (take off) PPE, and how to properly dispose of PPE.

Employers must ensure workers are trained on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace in accordance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard. Organizations must also comply with OSHA’s standards on Bloodborne Pathogens, including proper disposal of regulated waste, and PPE.

Educate staff on recognizing symptoms and notification protocols

Employers should educate staff and workers performing cleaning, laundry, and trash pick-up activities to

recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 and provide instructions on what to do if they develop symptoms within 14 days after their last possible exposure to the virus.

At a minimum, any staff should immediately notify their supervisor and the local health department if they develop symptoms of COVID-19. The health department will provide guidance on what actions need to be taken.


Contact the Department of Health (DOH)

Take immediate action and contact the DOH of the state in which your impacted business is located. The DOH will be able to provide guidance on what protocols to take to evaluate other members of your staff who may have been exposed to COVID-19. They will also walk you through the disinfecting protocols for your business.

Click below to access state Department of Health information throughout the Upper Midwest

Wisconsin Department of Health

Illinois Department of Public Health

Michigan Department of Health

If your state is not listed, visit your state’s department of health website directly. 

Communicate with others who may have come into contact with the affected employee

You will need to identify any individuals who may have come into contact with the affected employee, and communicate the situation to them. Rely on DHS for the most up to date guidance on next steps for your organization, the affected employee, and other members of your staff.

Disinfect your facility

It is important to clean and disinfect spaces in order to avoid further spread of COVID-19. This document from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services can guide you on what areas to disinfect, what disinfecting products to use, how to disinfect, what protective equipment to wear, and who should disinfect the contaminated areas. The cleaning procedures in this document should reduce any health hazard risk.

What to Clean: Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. Focus on bathrooms, common areas, and areas where the person with COVID-19 was for extended periods of time. Concentrate on high touch surfaces such as tables, hardbacked chairs, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks.

  • Janitorial staff should be tasked with cleaning and disinfection.
  • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. All gloves should be thrown away after each cleaning/disinfection and should not be used for other purposes. Gloves should be changed if torn.
  • Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed and thrown away.

For more information and resources on cleaning and disinfecting your facility after an employee has been identified as a confirmed COVID-19 case, we recommend visiting the CDC’s COVID-19 page.

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