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Idaho Business Law What to do if Someone in Your Business Tests Positive for the Coronavirus

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Business Attorney

The spread of Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus, in Idaho has been a slow and steady march upward. In March 2020, Governor Little put in place a stay-at-home order which effectively shut down and closed many businesses in Idaho. Beginning the end of April, the Idaho government has implemented a Stages of Reopening Plan allowing certain businesses to re-open and once again operate.

In many places throughout the state the incidences of people testing positive for the coronavirus was going down. However, with the stages of reopening, with businesses opening up again, and with people beginning to have contact with one another outside of the workplace, it appears that several places in Idaho are beginning to have more and more people test positive.

The purpose of this article is to give you specific advice and counsel about the things that you should do as a business owner if you have an employee test positive for the Coronavirus. Below is a list of the specific steps and things that can be done.

1. Have the Person Quarantine at Home

The first thing that you should do if you have an employee or other person within your business test positive for the Coronavirus is to immediately quarantine them at home. Oftentimes the individuals that do test positive are asymptomatic. This means they have no outward appearance of having the virus. There's no coughing, no sneezing, no runny nose, aches or pains, fevers or other symptoms that would normally lead somebody to know they are sick.

Because the Coronavirus is mostly an airborne illness, removing the individual from the business and requiring them to stay home is the first best action that you can take to keep your other employees and individuals at your business healthy. Keep in mind that anyone that has the Coronavirus, is protected by the changes that have recently been made to the Family and Medical Leave Act more commonly known as the FMLA. This act assures the infected individual that once they recover from the illness they can return to their job.

2. Notify Local Public Health Agency

Next, you must immediately report that you had an employee test positive for the Coronavirus to your local public health agency. This agency will assess the risk of other employees and individuals within your business also being exposed to the virus. This may lead to tests being done on these individuals to determine whether they also have the virus or not.

This also gives the local public health agency the opportunity to trace the contact that the individual had where they themselves were exposed to the virus. This helps the local public health agencies provide information and quarantining advice to any and all individuals who have been exposed. Again, the goal here is simply to reduce the exposure and lessen the spread of the coronavirus to other people in the community.

3. Determine if Others Need to Be Tested/Quarantined

As an employer, working closely with the public health agency, you have the ability to determine if your exposed employees should be tested for the Coronavirus. Normally, tests are reserved for those who display symptoms. However, to reduce the spread, tests often are provided to those who have been exposed so that they can either then be isolated and quarantined or they can be determined to not have contracted the virus.

Having this information also gives you an idea of areas of your business that should be quarantined for a period of time which the CCD recommends to be 24 hours or more. After this time frame, if the area has been well ventilated, it can then be sanitized and cleaned and regular business functions can continue to occur in that area.

4. Communicate with Others in Business

Throughout all of this, the CCD and most local public health agencies encourage business owners to communicate with their employees and others about what is going on within the business itself. Employers do need to be careful to follow all confidentiality requirements that exist under federal and state law concerning individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Unless that individual gives the okay, the employer should not name them unless it's already obvious from the size and operation of the business who the individual is.

Even if the individual is named, the employer must take great care to not divulge confidential health-related information about the individual unless they are authorized to do so. The only exception to this is if certain individuals had been exposed to the individual who has tested positive for the Coronavirus . In that circumstance, the employer can divulge who the person is and then take any steps necessary to protect further spread of the Coronavirus within their business structure.

5. Allow Others to Self-Isolate or Work From Home

Through all aspects of the Coronavirus, most business owners should give their employees an opportunity to self isolate if they feel that doing so is the safest thing for them. This is because each individual should determine for themselves their own Comfort level, their own health circumstances, and their own potential exposure to the virus.

In many instances, business owners are encouraged to allow their employees to work from home. This is encouraged if it is possible given the employee's job duties. By allowing this, business owners are reducing the exposure that the employees of other individuals within their business have during this pandemic.

Keep in mind that this article lists some suggestions. However it is only a quick summary of the things that should be considered if you have an employee or some other individual test positive for the Coronavirus. If you have questions or concerns, we encourage you to contact your local public health agency to get further advice and counsel about the steps that you should take to protect your employees and your business.

Enlist An Idaho Business Attorney To Help You

Our team of Idaho business lawyers can help you with any of your business structure or operation needs. Whether you are seeking to create a new business or review a current business, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho business problems.

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