Should I allow critical infrastructure employees to work if they have been exposed but are not showing symptoms of COVID-19?

Functioning critical infrastructure is imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency, for both public health and safety as well as community well-being. When continuous remote work is not possible, critical infrastructure businesses should use strategies to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, separating staff by off-setting shift hours or days and implementing social distancing. These steps can preserve and protect the workforce and allow operations to continue.

To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure employees may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional safety practices are implemented to protect them and the community. However, reintegrating exposed, asymptomatic employees to onsite operations, while discussed in the critical infrastructure guidance, should not be misinterpreted as always being the first or most appropriate option to pursue in managing critical work tasks. Staying home may still be the most preferred and protective option for exposed employees. Critical infrastructure businesses have an obligation to limit, to the extent possible, the reintegration of in-person employees who have experienced an exposure to COVID-19 but remain symptom-free in ways that best protect the health of the employee, their co-employees, and the general public.

Create a critical infrastructure sector response plan. Cross-training employees to perform critical job functions so the workplace can operate even if key employees are absent and match critical job functions with other equally skilled and available employees who have not experienced an exposure to COVID-19.

Critical infrastructure employees who have been exposed but remain symptom-free and must return to in-person work should adhere to the following practices before and during their work shift:

  • Pre-screen for symptoms
  • Monitor regularly for symptoms
  • Wear a cloth face covering
  • Practice social distancing
  • Clean and disinfect workspaces

Employees with symptoms should be sent home and should not return to the workplace until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation.

See Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Employees Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 for more information.