The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19, for workers in critical infrastructure jobs. CDC advises employers to implement the recommendations to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidance relaxes restrictions on critical infrastructure employees and permits them to continue work under certain circumstances following potential exposure to COVID-19.
Critical infrastructure workers are defined in the advisory list from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. The advisory list is not a federal standard, but is intended to help state and local officials ensure the continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.
Critical infrastructure workers are personnel in 16 different sectors, including law enforcement, call centers, fusion centers, hazardous material response (government and private sector), janitorial/custodial, food, agriculture, critical manufacturing, informational technology, transportation, energy, and government facilities.
CDC advises asymptomatic critical infrastructure employees to continue work and advises employers to implement the following additional measures and precautions to protect their employees and the community:
- Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
- Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee does not have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
- Wear Masks: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after the last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employee-supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
- Social Distancing: The employee should maintain six feet of distance and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
- Disinfect and Clean Workspaces: All areas, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, and shared electronic equipment, should be cleaned and disinfected routinely.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, announced the new guidance at the White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on April 9, 2020. Dr. Redfield stated that the goal of the guidance is to “really begin to get these workers back in the critical workforce so that we won’t have worker shortage in these critical industries.”
In the new publication, CDC re-emphasized prior guidance that, if employees become sick during the workday, they should be sent home immediately and surfaces in their workspace should be cleaned and disinfected. Employers also should compile information on all persons with whom the employee had contact during the time the employee had symptoms and two days prior to symptoms. Additionally, all persons with whom the employee came in to close contact (within six feet) should be considered exposed.
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