The new guidance, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 8, applies only to businesses deemed critical, such as hospitals, grocery stores and food processing plants.
Previous guidance called for all workers to isolate at home for 14 days after being close to anyone suspected of having the virus, in case they too became sick and infected others. Now employees can keep working as long as they don’t have symptoms, but they should wear a facemask, avoid getting close to other people, and submit to a daily temperature check.
The changes came as many essential businesses such as Amazon ramped up hiring and worried about potential labor shortages. Employee quarantines hit health care institutions especially hard, and some hospitals had stopped requiring them in mid-March. CDC Director Robert Redfield acknowledged these concerns when he announced the changes at a White House briefing.
“One of the most important things we can do is keep our critical workforce working,” he said. “We really looked at how to maintain that workforce particularly at this time as we begin to get ready to reopen.”
The guidelines also call for essential businesses to:
- Frequently clean and sanitize workspaces and shared surfaces
- Work with facility maintenance staff to increase air exchanges in rooms
- Stagger work breaks to reduce crowding
- Immediately send home anyone who becomes ill