The COVID-19 Isolation Guidelines Have Changed Again…


It’s been a long pandemic (and for those of you who are interested, the World Health Organization says that the pandemic is still ongoing, although it no longer constitutes a global public health emergency). As the virus has morphed, we’ve come a long way from the early, all-too-deadly days of the disease. And in recognition of the current state of COVID-19 and new preventative tools, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its guidance to take a unified approach to common respiratory viral illnesses, to include COVID-19, flu and RSV.

Prevention. The CDC identifies “Core Prevention Strategies” to protect individuals and those around them:

  • Immunizations. Employers can encourage employees to become vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu, as well as RSV for older employees. In many states, they can mandate vaccination, subject to reasonable medical or religious accommodations. But certain states prohibit employers from such mandates.
  • Good hygiene practices (e.g. covering mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, proper handwashing, cleaning frequently touched surfaces). The CDC suggests that organizations, which includes employers, can also display (free) hygiene posters, make sure facilities are equipped with soap/water/hand-drying, provide hand sanitizer dispensers near frequently touched surfaces or where soap and water are not easily accessible, and clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • Cleaner air. Employers can bring in fresh air, purify indoor air through the HVAC system or by using portable HEPA cleaners, or allow gathering outdoors. Employers should ensure compliance with at least the minimum outdoor air ventilation requirement in accordance with ventilation design codes (which are based on the year of building construction or latest renovation, and intended building occupancy).

Isolation. From the earliest recommendations of two weeks, the CDC has gradually reduced the isolation periods for those with COVID-19 infections. And now, the CDC is recommending that those with respiratory symptoms (including but not limited to fever, chills, fatigue, cough, runny nose, and headache) can return to normal activities when, for at least 24 hours, symptoms have improved and there has been no fever.

The CDC still recommends that those individuals who had symptoms, as well as those testing positive without symptoms, should still take additional precautions over the next five (5) days, including masking, physical distancing, and testing when they will be around other people indoors.

The CDC suggests that organizations can advise employees to stay home when sick, provide employees with paid time off, and develop flexible leave and telework policies.

Special Considerations. The CDC notes that certain groups have a higher risk of severe illness from respiratory diseases, including older individuals, those with disabilities, those with weakened immune systems, and pregnant individuals. Employers should keep in mind that the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act may require them to provide reasonable accommodations for such employees.