Updated February 3, 2022
To keep us moving toward an open and thriving economy, we must maintain the basic health and safety precautions that have helped slow the spread of the virus: wearing well-fitting facial coverings, frequent cleaning and handwashing, social distancing, and avoiding crowded places. Be sure to educate your employees about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick or have any of the following symptoms:
- scratchy throat, fever, chills, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, cough, body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of taste or smell
If an employee has or develops symptoms at work, they should do the following:
- Stay home or go home as soon as they begin to feel sick
- Remain at home while they are having symptoms
- After five or more days, return to work when:
- Their symptoms are gone
- They have been without a fever for over 24 hours (without fever-reducing medications).
- Wear a well-fitted mask around others for another five days
If an employee follows the steps above, employers should not require a negative test before the employee can return to work.
If an employee has close contact to a person known or suspected to have COVID-19, they should do the following:
- If they are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations & booster or have had a COVID-19 infection greater than 90 days ago:
- Self quarantine for five days
- If they develop symptoms, assume they have COVID-19 and follow the steps above
- If they are still symptom-free after five days, they can return to work, but should wear a well-fitted mask around other people for another five days.
- If they are up to date on COVID vaccinations & booster or have had a COVID infection in the past 90 days:
- They do not need to quarantine
- Self isolate if any symptoms of COVID-19 develop
- Wear a well-fitted mask for 10 days while around other people
Facial Covering Requirements
By amended Order of the Secretary of Health 20-03.6, everyone in indoor public spaces must wear a facial covering that covers their nose and mouth, regardless of vaccination status (exceptions outlined in the link above).
Reporting COVID-19 cases in your business
Employers who operate in healthcare and social service settings (e.g., senior living communities, homeless shelters, child care programs) should report cases to Public Health while maintaining the confidentiality of anyone who is sick.
Other employers (non-healthcare or social services employers) are encouraged to report cases to Public Health if they believe the virus is spreading through their workforce.
Testing Employees for COVID-19
Can an employer require their employees be tested? This depends on the situation. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the ADA requires any policy mandating employee testing be “job related and consistent with business necessity.” Applying this standard to COVID-19: because an infected individual poses a direct threat to others, employers may take steps, including testing, to determine whether employees entering the workplace have COVID-19.
Should an employer require their employees to be tested for COVID-19 routinely or before returning to work? The Department of Health only recommends routine screening of asymptomatic employees in certain high risk situations (e.g., healthcare workers in skilled nursing facilities).
The Department of Health strongly discourages employers from requiring their employees to test negative before returning to work after a confirmed COVID-19 infection. People with confirmed COVID-19 infection who are not hospitalized can return to work after:
- At least 5 days since symptoms first appeared and
- At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and
- Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving (Note: Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation)
People with confirmed COVID-19 infection who were admitted to a hospital may need to stay in isolation up to 20 days since their symptoms first appeared. Repeat testing after COVID-19 is not generally recommended because recovered persons can shed pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at very low levels in their nose and test positive for up to 3 months after illness onset. However, these individuals are not likely infectious to others.
Economic recovery is important. We can do it safely and effectively if businesses, public health, community members, and government work together.
- Okanogan County Economic Alliance COVID-19 Resources
- Business Guidance and resources for employers and business owners from the Washington State Coronavirus Response webpage.
- Business Signage Toolkit from Washington State Coronavirus Response
- Washington State Department of Health Resources and Recommendations
- L&I has released an Agricultural COVID-19 Requirements tool kit to help agricultural employers comply with the employee education requirements.
The Washington State Department of Health’s K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for the 2021-2022 School Year states:
‘For the 2021-2022 school year, schools must plan to provide full time in-person education for all interested students with the following required mitigation measures: universal face coverings/masks*, physical distancing**, improving ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfecting, staying home when sick and seeking evaluation, testing as indicated, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, responding to cases of COVID-19, and meeting the reporting requirements to public health.’
* Universal masking means that well-fitting face coverings are required to be worn by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.
** Physical distancing should not prevent a school from offering full-time, in-person learning to all students/families.
While vaccination is not a requirement for in-person education at K-12 schools, it is the strongest protective measure against COVID-19 available to individuals 5 years of age and older.
Who Must Quarantine:
Students and staff who come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should quarantine for at least 5 days (day 0 through day 5) after their last close contact* with a person who has COVID-19 if they are in one of the following groups:
• Those who are not vaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series.
• Ages 18 or older and completed the primary series of recommended vaccine but have not received a recommended booster shot when eligible.
*For household exposures this would be the last day the person with COVID-19 is considered infectious.
Who Does Not Need to Quarantine:
Students and staff who come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they:
• Are ages 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some
• Are ages 5-17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.
• Had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days.
For schools participating in a Test to Stay program – Students and staff eligible for Test to Stay may attend school, school-related extracurricular activities, and school-aged child care during their quarantine period if they participate in serial testing. This is known as modified quarantine.
For guidance on athletic events, and for information about whether your school is participating in the Test-to-Stay program, please reach out directly to your school.
For additional COVID-19 Guidance for schools, visit the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the North Central Educational Services District Workplace guidelines.