CDC loosens restrictions on isolating essential workers

Trump, coronavirus task force, holds news conference
Posted at 3:36 PM, Apr 08, 2020

CDC Director Robert Redfield announced on Wednesday that the CDC has new guidance for essential workers, eliminating previous guidance that called on workers to isolate for 14 days if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The new guidance could allow many in essential fields of work, including healthcare, policing, and food supply, to continue working even if they have have come in contact with someone with COVID-19.

The goal is to get people back to work in critical fields sooner.

“One of the most important things we can do is keep our critical workforce working,” Redfield said

Here is the new guidance:

  • Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
  • Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
  • Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
  • Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
  • Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.

"A potential exposure means being a household contact or having close contact within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19," the CDC said. "The timeframe for having contact with an individual includes the period of time of 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic."

Earlier on Wednesday, Dr. Deborah Birx explained why the White House and CDC considered the change.

“It looks at degree of exposure and really making it clear that exposure occurs within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes, so really understanding where you shouldn’t be within 6 feet of people right now," Birx told. "But if you’re in a work situation where you have to be, there will be a series of recommendations that if you had had a significant exposure of what specifically to do, and if you’ve had a less exposure what to do.”

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook .