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COVID-19 Exposure FAQs

December 18, 2020 15667

Here are the top 5 related questions about COVID-19 exposure. 

You’ve got questions. CDA has the answers. Here are the top 5 COVID-19-related questions from CDA members.

1. What are the quarantine requirements for a dentist or dental team member who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been exposed to COVID-19 either inside or outside of the dental office?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing symptoms may return to work if:

  • At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications, and
  • COVID-19 symptoms have improved, and
  • At least 10 days have passed since the person began experiencing symptoms

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, but is asymptomatic, they may return to work after a minimum of 10 days has passed since their test was administered.

If someone was exposed to COVID-19, but did not test positive for the virus, CDC guidance says they may return to work after 10 days, but it is best to quarantine for 14 days from date of last contact. The person who had the close contact should monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

2. Do I need to pay my staff during quarantine and for how long?

Whether a practice owner is required to pay their staff during quarantine depends on if the employee’s COVID-19 illness or exposure happened during the employee’s work shift. Practice owners can use the chart below to determine their obligations to provide compensation.

Infographic: Is COVID exposure or illness work related?

NOTE: Employers may not require an employee to provide a negative COVID-19 test result before returning to work.

3. When is it safe to treat a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has been exposed to someone who has tested positive?

If a patient's symptoms were not severe, the patient can be safely seen for dental treatment when it has been more than 10 days since symptoms onset or their positive test was administered. If patient symptoms were severe (patient was admitted to the hospital and needed oxygen), wait an additional 10 days. If patient had close contact but has no symptoms or positive test, they may be seen after 10 days since date of last close contact.

4. Under what circumstances would I need to close my practice due to a COVID-19 exposures or outbreak?

The dental office will close when:

  • The dental practice is experiencing a staff shortage due to illnesses or quarantine orders and cannot sufficiently operate at a reduced capacity
  • The local health department orders a closure due to a workplace outbreak, which is classified as three or more employees receiving a positive COVID-19 diagnosis within 14 days
  • The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health finds dangerous conditions exist at the workplace

The Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention regulation does not require an employer to compensate all employees if the employer voluntarily decides to close the practice due to  COVID concerns. If a practice owner decides to close the practice without meeting the criteria listed above, in order to minimize staff attrition and avoid potential complaints or investigation, dentists are encouraged to continue paying wages to their employees during the voluntary closure, but are not required to do so. Employees also can apply for unemployment.

5. What do we tell patients if they were in close contact with an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19.

If a patient was in close contact with a COVID-19 positive employee while at the dental office, the practice owner should inform the patient of the exposure and provide information about when the employee was tested and when the practice owners was informed of the diagnosis. Due to privacy concerns, the identity of the employee should not be shared, even if sharing other relevant details would allow the patient to determine the employee’s identity.

The practice owner may also include the personal protective equipment that was worn by the employee at the time of exposure, as well as the practice’s infection control protocols.

Employee health information is confidential and may be shared only as required by law.