Masked employee

(Engin Akyurt on Unsplash)

Does my employer have to say if a coworker has the virus?

Employers are generally not required to tell workers when someone in the workplace has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that companies monitor employees for symptoms and alert those who may have been in contact with an infected person. Some states may order businesses to follow such guidance.

Employers have the right to take employees’ temperature and ask about symptoms or if they have been exposed to or diagnosed with the virus. If an employee doesn’t respond to those questions, they can be barred from the workplace.

Businesses are required to provide a safe working environment. They also have to keep track of infections contracted on the job and report any hospitalizations or deaths related to the disease to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Some workers are unsettled by the lack of information. Amazon, for example, alerted warehouse workers when someone tested positive for the virus, but didn’t disclose a tally of how many workers tested positive. So workers began trying to keep track on their own.

There are also pending lawsuits against employers filed by workers who were exposed to or diagnosed with the coronavirus. In general, there’s a high legal bar for finding an employer at fault for endangering employees and most claims are resolved via worker’s compensation settlements. There has also been some debate over whether Congress should grant businesses liability protections during the pandemic.

How should I clean and store my face mask?

Cloth face masks worn during the coronavirus pandemic should be washed regularly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health experts recommend wearing a mask made from cotton fabric, such as T-shirts, or scarves and bandannas, when you are outside and unable to maintain social distancing from others.

The covering should be washed daily after use, says Penni Watts, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Nursing.

Will temperature checks of employees make workplaces safe?

No, not completely. They can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections but shouldn’t be the only safety measure employers take.

Some employers are following White House guidelines to screen workers for a fever with daily temperature checks to help prevent the spread of infections.

But screening for fevers alone won’t eliminate risk. People with the virus can be contagious without a fever, so it’s still important for employers to increase space between workers, disinfect surfaces and encourage hand washing.

A person’s temperature can be taken with a no-touch infrared thermometer pointed at the forehead, and workers can use the devices to take their own temperatures, using hand sanitizer before and after.

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