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Testing Asymptomatic Employees with Recent Known or Suspected Exposure to COVID-19

Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission of COVID-19, it is important that individuals exposed to people with known or suspected COVID-19 be quickly identified and quarantined.
  • Viral testing can detect if these individuals are currently infected.

  • The health department may reach out to the employer for assistance in identifying close contacts of the worker as well as possible contacts.

  • Employers are encouraged to work with public health departments investigating cases of COVID-19 and tracing contacts to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces and communities.

  • Because there may be a delay between the time a person is exposed to the virus and the time that virus can be detected by testing, early testing after exposure at a single time point may miss many infections. Testing that is repeated at different points in time, also referred to as serial testing, may be more likely to detect infection among close contacts of a COVID-19 case than testing done at a single point in time.

  • Even if close contacts are monitored with serial testing, it is critical that they strictly adhere to other preventive measures including social distancing, wearing cloth face coverings for source control if the hazard assessment has determined that they do not require personal protective equipment such as a respirator or medical facemask for protection, and practicing hand hygiene.

  • Testing may also be considered for possible close contacts of persons diagnosed with COVID-19 in collaboration with the local health department if resources permit. A risk-based approach to testing possible contacts of a person with confirmed COVID-19 may be applied. Such an approach should take into consideration the likelihood of exposure, which is affected by the characteristics of the workplace and the results of contact investigations.

  • In some settings, broader testing (i.e., testing beyond individually identified close contacts to those who are possible close contacts), such as targeting workers who worked in the same area and during the same shift, may be considered as part of a strategy to control the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace.

  • The rationale is that identification of contacts may be imprecise. High-risk settings that have demonstrated potential for rapid and widespread dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 include:

  • High-density critical infrastructure workplaces

  • Workplaces where employees live in congregate settings (e.g., fishing vessels, offshore oil platforms, farmworker housing or wildland firefighter camps)

  • Workplaces with populations at risk for severe illness if they are infected, such as nursing homes

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