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When Can Employees with Confirmed or Suspected Cases of COVID-19 Return to Work?

As employers are considering when and how to reopen their businesses, one question that may come up is what to do with an employee that was suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19?


The Center for Disease Control has announced guidelines on when it is acceptable for an employee with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 to return to work. The employee should seek to be tested, either through their healthcare provider or at one of the testing centers listed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.



If tests for COVID-19 can be obtained, the CDC recommends that the employee should only return to work after the following three conditions are met:


1. The employee had two negative COVID-19 tests in a row and the tests were at least 24 hours apart;


2. The employee no longer has a fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers; and


3. The employee’s respiratory symptoms have improved since showing COVID-19 symptoms (for example, cough or shortness of breath have improved) or being diagnosed with COVID-19.


It would best for employers to have written documentation of the employee’s negative test results to keep on file.



If a test for COVID-19 cannot be obtained and after consultation with a healthcare provider who determines that a test is not necessary, the CDC recommends the employee should only return to work only after the following three conditions have been met:


1. The employee has had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is, 3 full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)


2. The employee’s respiratory symptoms have improved (for example, cough or shortness of breath have improved)


3. At least 10 days have passed since the employee’s symptoms first appeared.

It is wise counsel for employers to have a signed statement from the employee’s healthcare provider stating that the employee does not require a COVID-19 test and it is safe for the employee to return to work.



The CDC still recommends that employees should maintain a six-foot distance from other employees at all time and wear a mask. Employees who appear to have COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home.


** The information contained here has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This material describes issues in general terms, and good legal advice required detailed analysis of particular facts and circumstances.

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The information contained here has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This material describes issues in general terms, and good legal advice required detailed analysis of particular facts and circumstances. We welcome the opportunity to discuss legal representation with readers of this content. However, the publication of this content is not intended to create, and receipt of the same does not create, an attorney-client relationship. We accept clients only after considering potential conflicts of interest and confirming the terms of our engagement in writing. We render legal advice to clients only after the completion of those procedures. Do not send confidential information until you speak with one of our attorneys and obtain authorization to send such information.