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Post-Exposure Precautions and Isolation

UpdatedQ: What steps should an agency take if an individual has a known exposure to someone with COVID-19?

A: If an asymptomatic individual has a known exposure to someone with COVID-19, CDC does not recommend quarantine at home, and so agencies must not prevent the individual from entering Federal facilities or interacting with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities due to quarantine protocols.

Pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance on post-exposure precautions, agencies must instruct individuals who are known to have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, to:

  1. Wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) while indoors at an agency workplace or interacting indoors with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities as soon as possible after notification of exposure and continue to do so for 10 full days from the date they were last known to have been exposed;
  2. Take extra precautions, such as avoiding crowding and physically distancing from others, when they know they are around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 while onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities, for 10 full days from the date they were last known to have been exposed; and
  3. Watch for COVID-19 symptoms for 10 full days from the date they were last known to have been exposed.

For purposes of calculating the 10 full days, day 0 is the day of their last known exposure to someone with COVID-19, and day 1 is the first full day after their last known exposure.

As part of agency testing protocols, and pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, agencies must require that such employees and contractor employees who are known to have been exposed to COVID-19 and are onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities be tested with a viral test authorized by the FDA to detect current infection at least 5 full days after their last known exposure (ideally, on or after day 6). The test can be both self-administered and self-read by the employee if the agency has the employee certify as to when they took the test and that they received a negative result. Agencies can either pay for this post-exposure diagnostic testing directly or reimburse employees for required tests.

If the individual tests negative, then pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, the agency must instruct the individual to continue to follow the above precautions for 10 full days from the date they were last known to have been exposed. If they test positive, or if they at any time develop COVID-19 symptoms, they must follow agency protocols on isolation.

If the individual that has been known to be exposed to COVID-19 is not working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities within 10 days of the known exposure, then the agency should not require them to be tested.

If the individual that has been known to be exposed to COVID-19 had tested positive for COVID-19 with a viral test within the previous 30 days and subsequently recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms, then they do not need to get tested after a known exposure. If the individual that had been known to be exposed to COVID-19 had tested positive for COVID-19 with a viral test within the previous 31-90 days and subsequently recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms, then they should be tested using a viral antigen test. (See also: CDC guidance on specific testing recommendations for those that have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days.)

UpdatedQ: What should agencies instruct individuals with probable or confirmed COVID-19 to do?

A: Any individual with probable or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, must not enter a Federal facility or interact with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities, consistent with CDC guidance on isolation and the workplace safety protocols set forth by their agency, and monitor their symptoms. This includes individuals who have an initial positive diagnostic viral test for COVID-19, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, and people with symptoms of COVID-19, including people who are awaiting test results or have not been tested.

Pursuant to Executive Order 13991, agencies must require that any individual, regardless of vaccination status, who develops fever, chills, or other new or unexplained symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or who tests positive for COVID-19, while onsite during the workday immediately wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) and promptly leave the workplace. Pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, the agency must require individuals who disclose that they have tested positive for COVID-19 to follow agency protocols on isolation.

Q: When should an agency allow an individual to return to a Federal workplace or interact with members of the public as part of their official duties after they have had COVID-19?

A: To be consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance, agencies would need to allow individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and never developed symptoms to return to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities after 5 full days following their positive COVID-19 test (day 0 being the day the individual was tested).

To be consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance, agencies would need to allow individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and had symptoms to return to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities after 5 full days from the onset of symptoms (day 0 being the day of symptom onset, regardless of when the individual was tested), once they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms are improving. Note that loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation.

If at any point their COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, agencies must instruct the individual to again not enter a Federal facility or interact with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities, restarting at day 0, consistent with Executive Order 13991 and CDC recommendations on isolation and the protocols set forth by their agency.

To be consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance, agencies should not use a test-based approach to determine when, after having tested positive for COVID-19 and isolated, an individual can return to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official duties, absent an exception approved by the agency head following consultation with the agency COVID-19 Coordination team, including the agency Office of General Counsel, and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.

Q: When should an individual who was moderately or severely ill with COVID-19 or has a weakened immune system end isolation?

A: If an individual had moderate illness (if they experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing) or severe illness (they were hospitalized) due to COVID-19, or they have a weakened immune system, then to be consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance, agencies would need to advise the individual to delay returning to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities for a full 10 days. If an individual had severe illness or has a weakened immune system, they should consult their doctor before ending isolation. If an individual is unsure if their symptoms are moderate or severe or if they have a weakened immune system, agencies should advise the individual to talk to a healthcare provider for further guidance.

Q: What should agencies instruct individuals to do after they end their isolation due to having tested positive with COVID-19?

A: Once an individual has returned to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities after having tested positive for COVID-19 and isolated consistent with CDC guidance on isolation, then pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, the agency must instruct the individual to continue to take precautions consistent with CDC guidance for at least 10 full days after their first day of symptoms, or after the date of a positive viral test for asymptomatic individuals, including wearing a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others, avoiding eating and drinking around others, avoiding environments such as dining facilities, gyms, or other places where they may need to be unmasked around others, and avoiding being around people who they know are at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19.

As it relates to mask-wearing after returning from isolation, agencies may also inform such individuals that they can opt to take two viral antigen tests authorized by the FDA to detect current COVID-19 infection, starting on day 6. With two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart, the individual may remove their mask sooner than day 10. If either of their antigen test results are positive, the individual should continue taking antigen tests at least 48 hours apart until they have two sequential negative results. This may mean that the individual would continue wearing a mask and testing beyond day 10.

If at any point their COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, agencies must instruct the individual to again not enter a Federal facility or interact with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities, restarting at day 0, consistent with Executive Order 13991 and CDC recommendations on isolation and the protocols set forth by their agency.