The long-term reality of this pandemic is becoming very clear.
The Delta variant is forcing employers to reevaluate safety protocols, return to office (RTO) plans and HR policies should an employee become exposed. The CDC recently released a study indicating unvaccinated people are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with the coronavirus compared to those who are vaccinated. Vaccinated employees have more protection against serious illness but break through cases are increasing. So regardless of vaccination status, there are new risks that employers must face and develop policies and protocols to address exposures.
Mask up again
The CDC is recommending that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Click here to monitor the transmission rate in your area. You also need to be aware that if any of your employees or someone in their household are immunocompromised, this makes wearing a mask even more important. Communicate your mask policy to all employees and send updates with every change.
How to handle an exposure
You don’t want to raise alarm unnecessarily, but it’s also critical to keep your workforce safe. It’s hard to balance those but you can start by understanding what constitutes an exposure. There are many factors that you must take into consideration:
- Proximity and duration of their exposure
- Indoors or outside
- Crowding and ventilation
- Vaccination status
- Prior COVID-19 infection
Since some of these are hard to determine, you could also have a mandated policy in place for any exposures. If anxieties are running high amongst employees, this may be your best course of action. The CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people who are exposed include:
- Get tested 3 – 5 days after the date of your exposure
- Wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result
- Isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing symptoms
We are in a fluid situation again as it relates to COVID. What types of supports do you have in place for your employees? Be proactive, update policies and remind them of resources in place. Communicate regularly via intranet, text, email or any other channels your employees access regularly. It’s also a good idea to publicly promote everything you’re doing to keep employees and customers safe.
MidwestHR is a leading CPEO in Illinois (certified professional employer organization). Our clients rely on us to manage their HR functions including payroll and tax administration, benefits management, workers’ compensation, risk management and more. During the pandemic, we have also guided clients with everything from applying for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to best practices for keeping work from home (WFH) teams engaged. Whether it’s HR policies or protocols for returning to work safely, we are here for our clients. Give us a call at 630-836-3000 to learn more.