Do You Need a Negative COVID-19 Test to Return to Work?

By Jonesa Rodriguez - July 27, 2020

Health care employers like Moffitt Cancer Center will no longer require team members who test positive for COVID-19 to test again before returning to work. That’s according to new return to work guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 17.

 

According to the CDC, health care workers with mild to moderate illness who are not severely immunocompromised can safely return to work 10 days after symptoms first appeared, and at least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medication.

 

Dr. John Greene, Chair, Infectious Diseases Program
Dr. John Greene, Chair, Infectious Diseases Program

 

“After 10 days the virus won’t grow in people with no symptoms or those with mild to moderate symptoms,” said Dr. John Greene, chair of Infectious Diseases Program at Moffitt. “However, if they had severe symptoms that required the use of a ventilator, were critically ill and immunosuppressed, they could shed the virus as long as 15 days.”

 

For those who are immunocompromised, the new guidelines recommend returning to work after 20 days have passed since the date of their first positive test, 24 hours with no fever and other symptoms have improved.

 

“After 20 days, there should be no shedding of the virus,” Greene said. “With the new criteria, instead of testing team members every week, they can now come off of isolation, no matter what their future test results show.”

 

Greene states that if employees meet the two criteria, they can come back to work and act as if they are no longer contagious.

 

These new guidelines not only help employers but staff who have missed months of work due to a positive COVID-19 test, even after days of isolation and no symptoms.

 

“We’ve had health care workers who had to stay out of the hospital for a month or two because they were persistently positive by the nasal swab,” said Greene. “Now they can come back to work within 10 days, this has major impact on our team members being able to get back to work.”

 

Greene also suggests that these guidelines can also be used with patients. Stating that after 10 days, health care workers no longer need to wear an N95 mask and other personal protection equipment but can switch back to wearing a regular surgical mask with eye or face shield for care of patients without immunosuppression.  

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