San Benito County COVID-19 in the Workplace Update
COVID-19 in the Workplace
Updated: June 24, 2020
How is Coronavirus spread?
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes. The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. In general, the more closely a person interacts with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
What is person-to-person spread?
The virus is transmitted between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
What is asymptomatic spread?
COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms such as cough, fever or shortness of breath. Even people without symptoms can carry the COVID-19 virus and spread it to others. This is called asymptomatic spread.
What is community spread?
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in areas such as workplaces, stores, events and gatherings. Some people may not know how or where they became infected.
Are there other ways the virus can be spread?
Although it is thought that the virus is spread primarily person-to-person, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
What are the implications of community spread for the workforce?
Community spread of COVID-19 is happening throughout San Benito County. Because all of the community is at risk, everyone, including our workforce, must be vigilant about preventive measures known to minimize exposure to COVID-19. These include using facial coverings, maintaining physical distance (6 feet or more) and frequent hand washing/sanitizing. If a worker is sick, they should go home immediately. These measures allow workers to continue to work as long as they do not have symptoms.
What if a worker has had direct contact to a confirmed case of COVID-19?
People who are confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 are reported to public health departments. Public health staff makes contact with these people and determine with whom they have been in close contact. Public health staff reaches out to these close contacts and determine the need for further actions such as continuing to work, quarantine, isolation and the need for testing. Workers with direct contact to a COVID-19 patient should continue to work as long as they don’t have symptoms and can maintain physical distance of 6 feet and use facial coverings. Workers who are well, but who have a family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor immediately, follow workplace protocols and follow CDC and public health recommendations and instructions. Additional steps may need to be taken to protect co-workers and the community (see below).
What if a worker has had indirect contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case?
Indirect contact means a person has not had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and therefore is unlikely to become infected. Indirect contact could include being near a person from a household of a confirmed case, being in the vicinity (beyond 6 feet) of a confirmed case or touching a potentially COVID-19 contaminated surface. Workers with indirect contact to a COVID-19 case may continue to work as long as they don’t have symptoms. Workers should continue to follow prevention measures such as the use of facial coverings, maintaining physical distance (6 feet or more) and frequent hand washing/sanitizing. Brief, indirect exposure is considered very low risk, especially if these preventive measures are used.
Should all workers be screened regardless of potential exposure?
The California Department of Public Health provides workplace guidance for most industries. This includes guidance on screening and monitoring for COVID-19 amongst the workforce. You can find guidance here: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Guidance.aspx
Generally, workers should be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19 to include:
This list is not exhaustive. Workers who have other symptoms that are severe or concerning should immediately leave the workplace and contact their health care provider.
What should a supervisor do if a worker shows symptoms?
If a worker becomes ill with fever, cough or shortness of breath, immediately send the worker home. Advise the worker to self-isolate at home and contact their healthcare provider immediately. Clean and disinfect all surfaces at their workstation as well as shared/common areas.
What if a worker tests positive for COVID-19?
Public health staff contacts workers who test positive, as well as their close contacts. Workers should be instructed to follow the direction of public health staff. Per federal and state privacy laws, employee health information is protected. Public health staff may contact employers to provide consultation, guidance and instructions.
Can supervisors request that an employee be tested for COVID-19?
No. Testing is ordered by health care providers or public health staff. Employers may recommend testing, but cannot mandate workers to be tested.
What else can supervisors do to protect the workforce?
Physical distancing should be implemented at all work locations to the extent possible.
All workers should:
Should workers wear a face covering while at work?
Yes. Per the California State mandate of June 18, 2020, everyone in the State of California is required to wear a face covering. Exemptions apply, see the following link for details. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/COVID-19/Guidance-for-Face-Coverings_06-18-2020.pdf
Are there additional safety measures that can be implemented to prevent spread of COVID-19?
Yes. The following are simple practices to avoid disease spread:
When can an employee who has been infected with COVID-19 return to work?
Employees may return to work when all three of the following conditions are met:
Who can I call if I have questions?
San Benito County Health and Humans Services Agency has created a COVID-19 hotline that anyone can call at 831-636-4113.
Website links with more information on COVID-19:
San Benito County Public Health COVID-19 Website:
Cal/OSHA and Statewide Industry Guidance on Protecting Workers from COVID-19
State of California Resilience Roadmap:
Centers for Disease Control:
Public Health Division
Fax (831) 637-9073
TDD/TTY (831) 636-0385
Toll-free (800) 756-0385
Mon-Fri 8AM – 5PM
David Ghilarducci, MD, FACEP