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March 25, 2020

COVID-19: CDC Offers Guidance on Handling, Mitigating Exposure for Health Care Personnel

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its recommendations regarding the exposure of health care personnel (HCP) to COVID-19. 

Specifically, the CDC’s guidance updated recommendations regarding health care personnel contact tracing, monitoring, and work restrictions. Among these recommendations are allowances for asymptomatic health care personnel who have been exposed to a COVID-19 patient to continue to work after options to improve staffing have been exhausted in consultation with their occupational health program. The CDC also removed the requirement for health care facilities to actively verify the absence of fever and respiratory symptoms when health care personnel report to work—verification is now optional. 

The CDC also issued recommendations for monitoring based on the risk of exposure—low, medium, or high—to COVID-19. 

Low-risk exposure refers to brief interactions with patients with COVID-19 or prolonged close contact with patients who were wearing a facemask while health care personnel were wearing a facemask or respirator. For low-risk exposure, asymptomatic health care personnel are not restricted from work but should check their temperature twice daily, remain alert for respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, sore throat), and ensure they are asymptomatic before leaving home and reporting to work. If the health care worker develop a fever (which is generally measured as a temperature over or equal to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) or respiratory symptoms, they should immediately self-isolate and notify their local or state public health authority or health care facility to coordinate further medical evaluation.

Medium-risk refers to prolonged contact with patients who were wearing a facemask while a health care worker’s nose and mouth were exposed to material potentially infectious with the virus, and high-risk exposure occurs when health care personnel have had prolonged close contact with patients with COVID-19 who were not wearing a facemask while the health care worker’s nose and mouth were exposed to material potentially infectious with the virus. 

High-risk exposure is also considered to have occurred when health care personnel are present in the room for procedures that generate aerosols or during which respiratory secretions are likely to occur (such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and intubation) on patients with COVID-19 when the health care worker’s eyes, nose, or mouth were not protected. With high-risk exposure, health care personnel are advised by the CDC to undergo active monitoring, including restriction from work in any health care setting until 14 days after their last exposure. Those health care personnel who have a community or travel-associated exposure should undergo monitoring as defined in the CDC guidance

Personnel in any risk exposure category who develop signs or symptoms compatible with COVID-19 must contact their local public health authorities or their facility’s occupational health program for medical evaluation before returning to work.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Mary Connolly, associate, at or another member of the firm’s Health Care & Human Services Practice Area. 


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