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Some US State Governments Require Employers to Report or Track COVID-19 Cases

In recent weeks, it seems a faint light at the end of the tunnel is appearing in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines have been approved and have started to be distributed throughout the United States. Cases are trending downward, and health experts are cautiously optimistic that the tide is turning against the virus.

But while this news is encouraging, the virus remains a threat and is still circulating in all states. The data shows that thousands of people continue to get the virus each day. So while some might react to the recent good news by relaxing safety measures and returning to group gatherings, it’s entirely possible this could cause new case spikes in a matter of weeks, wiping out the progress of the last few months. Clearly, it is not yet time for the public to put its guard down.

One place that continues to pose a high risk of COVID-19 infection is the workplace. With people congregating in close proximity indoors to conduct business, the workplace needs continued monitoring and social distancing practices. Authorities are working on strategies to secure workplaces against the risk of virus spread, but workplace safety measures are largely left up to individual states.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, requires states to report workplace injuries and illnesses. But infectious diseases do not always fall under the required reporting category. There are several variables that could leave an infectious disease off the reporting requirement. Mainly, the OSHA requirement stipulates that the illness can only be recorded if it is “work related,” meaning the infection is a result of performing work duties. In many cases, it can be difficult to determine when or where a virus was picked up, leaving employers off the hook for reporting the illness.

But while OSHA has not mandated country-wide workplace safety and reporting requirements, some states are taking it upon themselves to require employers to report and track COVID-19 cases among employees and visitors. The hope is to minimize virus outbreaks in their communities by closely monitoring infections and symptoms of infection.

State Requirements for COVID-19 Reporting or Tracking

Below are some of the areas currently requiring employer reporting or tracking of cases. While not an exhaustive list, it provides a snapshot of some of the measures put in place by states and local governments who want to be proactive in keeping workplaces safe.

California

California enacted new reporting policies for employers starting January 1, 2021. Under this new requirement, employers must notify employees of any potential exposure to COVID-19 in writing within one business day of learning about the exposure.  This report is made to all employees who were on the premises with the exposed individual.

In addition, employers must notify the local public health department within 48 hours of an outbreak, which is classified as three or more COVID-19 cases that occur on-site. The report must include information about the number of employees exposed, the names and worksite of those employees, the address of the worksite, and the NAICS code of the worksite.

California employers are encouraged to update their compliance policies immediately to ensure the recent measures are fully addressed. Employers who fail to comply with the new policies could incur monetary fines by the Cal/OSHA. The Cal/OSHA may also shut down a workplace if it is determined to pose “immediate hazards” of COVID-19 under the new law.

New Mexico

Effective August 5th, 2020, New Mexico implemented an emergency amendment that requires employers to report to NM OSHA any positive COVID-19 cases within four hours of first learning about it. The requirement extends to any positive test, whether the employee caught the illness at work or not.

Because of the stringent four hour reporting period, employers must implement processes to ensure swift reporting practices. Supervisors at all levels need to know the proper contact so they can be ready to make the report as soon as they learn of a positive case.

The new provision will remain in effect for 120 days, but it could be made permanent.

Michigan

Michigan enacted temporary emergency rules which include daily screenings of workers who continue to work in an office setting. Workers must submit a daily questionnaire about symptoms and possible exposure to COVID-19 infected individuals. If possible, a daily temperature screen will also be enforced.

Employers must also immediately report any known or suspected cases of COVID-19 to the health department. Employees are required to self-report any signs and symptoms of illness to the employer before or during work.

These rules were put in place by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSH) as of October 14, 2020, and they will remain in effect for at least six months.

New York

New York requires employers to conduct health screenings for all employees entering a workplace. Workers should be reminded by employers to carefully monitor their health and stay home if sick. Employers are encouraged to relax leave policies to help staff stay home during illness.

If an employee refuses to submit to the health screen, the employer may discipline the employee according to the guidance. To protect confidentiality, an employer must maintain medical information about employees separate from other personnel files.

Employers in New York City must report positive COVID-19 tests to the NYC and NYS health departments. This act will trigger a contact tracing investigation to identify people who may have been exposed to the positive case.

New Jersey

Another state that requires daily health checks is New Jersey. According to Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 192, signed on October 28, 2020, employers must conduct daily health checks of their employees. These health checks may include temperature screenings, visual symptom checks, or health questionnaires.

In addition, employers must stay current on the evolving list of COVID-19 related symptoms using CDC guidelines. Any implemented health checks must protect confidentiality and be consistent with guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.

Oregon

The state of Oregon requires employers to notify COVID-exposed workers within 24 hours of learning of an infection. This temporary rule went into effect on November 16, 2020 under Oregon OSHA. The policy is an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus by requiring employers to employ risk-reducing measures.

Employers must notify employees of a workplace infection when their employees were within six feet of a positively confirmed COVID-19 individual for longer than 15 minutes. They must further provide training on how to reduce risks and develop infection control plans.

Oregon continues to pursue measures to protect workplaces from future disease outbreaks.

WorkSafe Can Help Workplace Reporting and Tracking

Whether or not your state requires Covid-19 tracking and reporting, you can still make a positive impact in your workplace with your own health screenings. WorkSafe, developed by TrueCare 24, is a powerful platform that can easily and efficiently track employee wellness and work-readiness.

With the daily symptom checker—which can be downloaded as a convenient app—all visitors, clients, employees, or students can check their health and work eligibility before entering the campus. WorkSafe’s quick questionnaire safely assesses risks and alerts the user and the employer of any issue.

Employees are first invited to download the WorkSafe app. Before starting work, they answer a few questions to complete the symptom assessment. If the user passes the questionnaire, they are cleared for work; if not, they will be notified to stay home and contact the appropriate person. A message can be sent out at any time reminding visitors or employees to complete the daily health check.

Employers can conveniently review results in real-time with the employer dashboard. They get an overview of each employee or department to check for compliance or irregularities. The reports are customizable based on business workflow and needs.

Workplaces can do their part to protect their team and help end the pandemic. If you are interested in how WorkSafe can help your team, you can start a free trial of WorkSafe now. Visit joinworksafe.com to learn more about this limited time offer and get started today.

In case you need to organize a COVID-19 onsite testing for your employees, or you would like to speak with TrueCare24 consultant:
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