Workplaces should close for 24-hours, clean if employee has COVID-19, infectious disease specialist says

It is the 'responsibility' for a workplace to disclose COVID-19 case, she says

A man wearing mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 is reflected next to a sign requiring face coverings at a business in San Antonio, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in San Antonio. Cases of COVID-19 have spiked in Texas and the governor of Texas is encouraging people to wear masks in public and stay home if possible. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – As the rise in the COVID-19 case count leads to increasing concerns in the workplace, a local health expert is saying that it is up to the employer to make sure the job site is thoroughly cleaned after an employee tests positive for the virus.

Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist at the UT Health San Antonio’s Long School of Medicine, told KSAT 12 News during an interview on Thursday that employers should follow certain protocols as the city’s COVID-19 trend worsens.

When an employee tests positive for the virus, she says, managers should tell people who may have been exposed.

“So it’s really not the medical or legal or health authority responsibility of the workplace to disclose the identity of the person who is sick, but it is their responsibility to disclose that within a work area, someone has had COVID-19,” she said.

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Someone is considered exposed if they were within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes and weren’t wearing a mask, she said.

For as many cases as possible, contract tracers with the city’s Metropolitan Health Department will try to learn who the infected person has had contact with and call those people to discuss quarantining or testing, she said.

Berggren said work areas that an infected person came into contact with should be closed for at least 24 hours and deep cleaned.

“And then once all the surfaces have been cleaned, including the bathrooms and the doorknobs and all the places that the sick person has been in, then after that, workers can come back to work,” she said.

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In June, Dr. Anita Kurian, Metropolitan Health District assistant director, said the department does not track cases by job, and employers are encouraged, but not required, to disclose COVID-19 cases.

The City of San Antonio did not immediately respond to questions about a possible change in requirements for businesses following the uptick in cases.

Berggren recommends employees sit at least six feet apart and don’t go on breaks together without masks.

Watch Berggren explain what latest COVID-19 models are showing in the video below:

Read also:

Here’s what to do if someone in your household is COVID-19 positive

Should you get a COVID-19 test? Here are the San Antonio Metro Health guidelines

Which face mask should I be using? A new study shows homemade masks can be most effective

About the Author

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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