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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Bosses are suffering from a new headache: how long should sick employees be isolated?

When it finally happened last weekend, Barbara Sibley’s four New York restaurants had already weathered the city’s initial Covid-19 wave, the prevaccine surge last winter, and this summer’s Delta spike. After one of her employees became ill with Covid, she was concerned about an epidemic and was having difficulty staffing her business. She temporarily closed one of her sites.

But it was merely the beginning of Ms. Sibley’s concerns. She also had to consider how long the employee, who had received all of the necessary vaccinations, should be isolated before returning to work. Furthermore, the messages from public health specialists were not unambiguous.

For 14 days after testing positive for the coronavirus isolate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that the vast majority of patients who tested positive for the coronavirus isolation be quarantined. Later, it decreased the recommended isolation duration to 10 days from the original recommendation of 30 days. These rules, on the other hand, were based on data from unvaccinated persons and were put in place before the availability of fast testing was ubiquitous. Many health and policy specialists now believe that patients who have received vaccinations should be allowed to return home after five to seven days of isolation if they are not symptomatic and their tests come back negative for the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) decreased the number of days that health care employees who test positive for the coronavirus should isolate themselves in specific instances on Thursday, but it did not address the issue of other companies.

In the opinion of Joseph Allen, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “every expert has been calling for shorter isolation times for a long time, so it’s a good move. But it’s shortsighted not to apply this more broadly: to schools, colleges, sports, Broadway, restaurants, and airlines,” he said. Everyone is dealing with the same issue of needing to segregate individuals for lengthy periods of time without the option of testing them before returning them.”

CDC officials stated on Thursday that they are “continuing to review isolation and quarantine recommendations for the wider community” as they learn more about the Omicron strain of the coronavirus and that they would “update the public as necessary” once they have more information.

Governor Kathy Hochul of New York stated on Friday that fully vaccinated key employees might return to work five days after testing positive if they have no symptoms or if their symptoms are subsiding, and if they have not had a fever for 72 hours. Those employees will also be required to wear a mask, according to her.

It has become more difficult to find qualified personnel across sectors, and the increase in instances has caused travel disruptions around the holidays, stranding thousands of consumers and highlighting the economic toll of employees forced to isolate themselves. Already, some economists are expressing concern about the possible effect that shutdowns may have on consumer spending in the near future.

Delta Air Lines urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to reduce the existing 10-day quarantine period for fully vaccinated passengers to five days, stating that the current term might “seriously disrupt” operations. Next came JetBlue and Airlines for America, a trade organisation that represents eight airlines, both of which placed second.

In response to that request, the Association of Flight Attendants wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, stating that “we support your agency’s current recommendation to isolate for 10 days” and that decisions to shorten isolation times “should be made by public health professionals, not airlines.”

According to Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, the need for prolonged isolation periods might potentially create disincentives for individuals to be tested. Many individuals, even those with moderate symptoms, may choose not to test or report since it is quite inconvenient to be out for a period of 10 days, he said.

As the proprietor of Friends and Lovers in Brooklyn with little over a dozen workers, Diana Mora said that attempting to adhere to public health regulations while still operating a successful company was a continual cause of concern.

Even with clearer rules, though, putting policies in place may be a difficult task. While some experts recommend different isolation procedures for employees who have been vaccinated vs those who have not been vaccinated, several organisations do not currently have a mechanism in place to identify who of their staff has received a vaccination. The issue of whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would amend its definition of completely vaccinated to include booster doses adds still another degree of complication to the situation.

Workers who have been vaccinated after being exposed to someone who has Covid-19 may be required to remain at home. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations do not mandate such a quarantine.

However, over two years after the outbreak began, this is the situation in which employers continue to find themselves, amidst a never-ending stream of fresh data, standards, and concerns.

David Faber
David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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