CDC Adds New Symptoms for COVID-19 Screening – Employers Must Adjust Accordingly
On April 26, 2020, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance to add six new symptoms of COVID-19. Based on this update, individuals should be cognizant of the new symptoms while self-monitoring for COVID-19 and employers should update their employee health screening procedures.
The CDC has expanded the list of possible COVID-19 symptoms to: fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. The CDC also notes that some individuals have experienced extreme fatigue and gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhea, though those symptoms are not included in the updated list of common symptoms. Additionally, the CDC has lowered the benchmark fever warning to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than the previously advised 100.4 degrees.
The CDC has also created an interactive “self-checker” tool, which assists individuals in evaluating whether they have COVID-19 or another illness, such as seasonal allergies.
Symptoms are expected to appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. The CDC warns that not all individuals with COVID-19 will experience all symptoms and symptoms may range from mild to severe. The CDC also recognizes that some individuals with COVID-19 will appear asymptomatic. Individuals should seek immediate medical attention when/if they experience any of the following symptoms: trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to wake up, or bluish lips or face.
In light of the new guidance, employers should take the following steps:
Update screening criteria and instruct employees not to report to work if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, which may include a fever of 100.00 degrees or another symptom even without a fever.
Continue to screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms, including performing temperature screenings when appropriate, before permitting the employee to access the workplace.
Immediately separate and send home employees who report or display COVID-19 symptoms.
Instruct sick employees to follow CDC-recommended steps and not return to work until they no longer present a threat to their coworkers.
Follow the recommended cleaning and disinfection recommendations if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, including deep cleaning of all areas where the employee worked during the 48 hours prior to exhibiting symptoms.
Consider requiring/providing COVID-19 testing to employees before allowing access to the workplace when the testing is consistent with business necessity, including preventing the direct threat of exposing co-workers or customers to the virus.