DOH Updates Return-to-Work Protocols for Healthcare Personnel  

The State Department of Health (DOH) has updated its guidelines on return-to-work protocols for healthcare personnel (HCP) with COVID-19 infection or exposure. The guidelines supersede the most recent guidance from the DOH, which had been issued on February 4, 2022 and point providers to the CDC’s guidelines, which are available here and here

The CDC guidelines provide that, generally, asymptomatic HCP who have had a higher-risk exposure do not require work restriction, regardless of vaccination status, if they do not develop symptoms or test positive for SARS-CoV-2. 

For HCP that have tested positive for COVID, rights to time off from work depend on the staffing levels of the health care provider.  If the provider’s staffing levels are so low that the provider is in a “crisis” mode (and crisis mode must be reported to the DOH), then the provider has to follow certain standards when staffing cases with staff who are reporting COVID-positive results. See the CDC guidelines here. In our experience, very few agencies have acknowledged that they are in crisis mode, and even fewer have reported the same to the Department.

For healthcare providers that are in the “contingency capacity” mode, the following rules apply for employees that test positive for COVID:

HCP with mild to moderate illness who are not moderately to severely immunocompromised can return to work when:

  1. At least 5 days have passed since symptoms first appeared (day 0), and
  2. At least 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and
  3. Symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) have improved.

HCP who were asymptomatic throughout their infection and are not moderately to severely immunocompromised may return to work when at least 5 days have passed since the date of their first positive viral test (day 0).

Providers are reminded that COVID sick pay is still in effect and employees must be paid for the time that they are not permitted to work due to COVID. Further, such paid time off cannot be deducted from the employees’ PTO/sick time accruals. Rather, the COVID sick leave is an employer-funded separate “bank” of paid time off to which employees may be entitled.