COVID-19 Return to Work – Frequently Asked Questions

Health Street provides a COVID-19 workplace resource center to help companies and staff with complex issues related to working during a pandemic. Our information addresses testing for coronavirus, answers frequently asked questions about returning to work, helps you understand test results, and defines terms related to COVID-19.

When can I go back to work?

Returning to work is a decision that should be determined by you and your employer based on a number of factors. Contact your employer for guidance about returning to work. Be sure to continue to follow federal, state, and local government guidance regarding social distancing and isolation.

What are the risks of going back to work too soon?

If you go back to work too soon, you risk transmitting COVID-19 to others or becoming infected with COVID-19 yourself.

Transmitting to others: If you’ve been infected with COVID-19, you can transmit the infection to your coworkers or customers. Many people who are infected have no symptoms. Only a PCR test can determine if you have an active infection. Antibody tests for COVID-19 can determine if you have been exposed in the past. Learn more about what you should know before getting a test for COVID-19.
Becoming infected: Coworkers or customers who have COVID-19 can transmit the virus to you. There is a risk of becoming infected if you have had close contact with an infected person (being within six feet of them for more than a few minutes within the past 14 days).

What steps can I take to protect myself at work?

Follow your employer’s guidance regarding ways to protect yourself and others from becoming infected with COVID-19. In general, some protective measures include, but are not limited to, the following:

Wearing a face mask or cloth face covering
Avoiding touching your face
Using gloves
Washing your hands frequently
Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces
Staying more than 6 feet away from others

Your employer may also have procedures in place to check your temperature regularly.

What does it mean to have a safe work environment?

Employers are responsible for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. These duties include:

Ensuring the building is well ventilated to provide acceptable indoor air quality.

Regularly checking air filters to ensure they are within service life and appropriately installed.

Following the ​CDC’s Guidance for Building Water Systems​.

Ensuring adequate supplies for employees, customers, and visitors so they may clean their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes (i.e., offering soap and water, hand sanitizer, tissues, and no-touch trash cans).

Performing routine cleaning by following the ​CDC’s Guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting.

What other safety measures can employers put in place to reduce risks at work?

Encouraging hand hygiene and using non-contact methods of greeting.

Hanging informational posters at the entrance of the workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.

Directing employees to visit ​CDC’s Coughing and Sneezing Etiquette ​and ​Clean Hands webpages for more information.

Encouraging or requiring the use of face masks or cloth coverings.

Holding meetings in open, well-ventilated space that maintain social distancing guidelines.

Adjusting, cancelling, or postponing in-person meetings, or encouraging videoconferencing or teleconferencing.

Limiting non-essential travel, and advising employees who travel that they must take additional precautions and preparations.

Where can I get more information?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
PWNHealth: COVID-19 FAQs