COVID FAQs for Businesses

This information was updated August 1, 2020. Download a printable PDF version.

Governor’s Executive Orders in place to ensure the safety of employees and customers:

Social distancing

How do I determine a good social distance from another person?

Social distancing means keeping at least 6 feet apart from another person. 

What does 6 feet look like? 

Six feet is equivalent to two Golden Retrievers standing nose to tail, the average width of a sedan, the length of a sofa or mattress, or two arm lengths extended.

Screening

What screening questions should I ask my employees?

Employees must be asked about symptoms of fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea. Any symptom unusual for the person is reason for concern. Use our screening form or develop your own.

Employees must be asked if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or if they have been in contact with anyone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 in the past 14 days. 

Employees should also be asked about international travel. Consider asking about domestic travel.

Do I have to take the temperature of all my employees?

In most industries, taking temperatures is encouraged but not required. Check Executive Orders for guidance. If available, you can use a touchless thermometer to screen for fever, which is 100.40F or above. The person taking the temperature should wear a mask. Disinfect the thermometer appropriately. Employees can also take their temperature at home or can report if they feel feverish. Not everyone who is infected with COVID-19 develops a fever, so be sure to ask employees symptom-related questions even if you take temperatures.

Traveling

What are the requirements for workers who have traveled?

Workers traveling domestically may continue to work with no restrictions. There is currently no quarantine requirement in Michigan for travel in the state or in the U.S. However, be aware that many locations around the country are experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases. Workplaces can set their own policies about quarantine after domestic travel.

Workers traveling internationally (under CDC guidelines) must self-quarantine at home for 14 days after returning.

Close contact 

What does “close contact” mean?

Close contact means someone was closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes from an individual who is positive for COVID-19. It does not matter if the individuals were wearing face coverings. 

If the COVID-19 positive person had symptoms, the contact time would start 2 days (48 hours) before they developed symptoms. If the person did not have symptoms, the contact time would start 2 days (48 hours) before the date the positive COVID-19 test was taken.

If someone is identified as a close contact, they will likely be contacted by the Health Department, and they must follow the guidance provided. Close contacts must self-quarantine for 14 days past the date of contact.

What are the quarantine rules for workers who had close contact to a COVID-19 positive individual?

Workers at a health care facility, first responders (e.g., police officers, fire fighters, paramedics), child protective service employees, workers at child caring institutions, and workers at correctional facilities (under EO 2020-36) who have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual may be allowed to continue to work at the employer’s discretion if they remain asymptomatic. These employees are encouraged to wear a mask at all times at work.

Other workers (under CDC guidelines) who have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual must self-quarantine at home for 14 days past the last date of close contact. 

If someone had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, can they just get a test and go back to work instead of being in quarantine for 14 days?

No. People infected with COVID-19 can take up to 14 days to develop symptoms. The individual must finish the full 14 days of quarantine, as we don’t know where person is in their incubation period.

In addition, testing right after exposure is not recommended, as the virus can take several days to build up enough in the body to show positive on a test. Individuals should wait a minimum of 5 days after exposure before being tested. 

Positive employees

One of our employees just tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do? 

  • Instruct the positive employee to stay home and self-isolate. If they had symptoms, they should not return to work for at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and symptoms have improved. If they did not have symptoms, they should not return to work for 10 days past the day the test was conducted. 
  • The local Health Department from the county in which this person lives will contact the positive individual to conduct contact tracing and to connect the individual with needed resources during isolation.
  • Note that under new CDC guidance, the isolation timeframe may be extended for hospitalized, severely ill or severely immunocompromised cases. The positive employee must follow the guidance provided by the local health department.
  • IMPORTANT: You must protect the confidentiality of your employee. Legally, you cannot identify the employee by name. DO NOT disclose to other staff or third parties the name or other personal or health information of the employee who tested positive for COVID-19. This information can be shared with the Health Department, however.
  • Determine when the person was last at the facility, and what the potential dates are that others were at risk of exposure (if symptomatic, includes 48 hours before symptoms developed; if asymptomatic, includes 48 hours before the test was conducted).
  • Determine who was at the facility on the dates of potential exposure. 
  • Determine who was a “close contact” of the positive person on the dates of potential exposure (closer than 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, regardless of face coverings). These individuals will need to self-quarantine for 14 days following the last date of contact with the positive individual. Notify those impacted individuals directly (while protecting the privacy of the positive person, and not naming them). Be prepared to provide names and phone numbers of close contacts to the Health Department. Those individuals will be added to our contact tracing list, and the Health Department staff will reach out to them to provide more details about quarantine.
  • If a close contact develops symptoms, they should follow the return to work guidelines (10 days after symptoms started and 24 hours after fever has resolved and symptoms improved). They should also seek testing for COVID-19 if they develop symptoms.
  • Notify the Washtenaw County Health Department of the positive individual. Call 734-544-6700, email [email protected] or enter the information in our secure online portal. Cooperate with contact tracing efforts, including notification of potential contacts, such as workers, customers, or visitors who had close contact with the individual, while maintaining confidentiality required by state and federal law and regulations.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and other elements of the work environment of the employee, along with frequently touched surfaces and objects such as doorknobs/push bars, elevator buttons, restroom doors, etc. Use EPA-approved disinfectants and use according to label instructions.
  • Notify all potentially impacted people, including those who may have had casual contact with the positive individual. Tell them there was a positive case associated with your facility (while protecting the privacy of the positive person, and not naming them), and indicating that any close contacts who were at higher risk of exposure have been identified and notified directly, and will be contacted by the Health Department. Any other individuals at the facility are considered lower risk – similar to any time you leave the house and go out in public. These lower risk individuals should self-monitor for symptoms and seek medical care and testing if they develop symptoms.

One of our employees has a “suspected” (but unconfirmed) case of COVID-19. What should I do?

Encourage the employee to be tested for COVID-19. Until results are available, the individual must self-isolate at home. The employee must stay home for 10 days after symptoms started and 24 hours after fever has resolved and symptoms improved. 

Thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and other elements of the work environment of the employee, along with frequently touched surfaces and objects such as doorknobs/push bars, elevator buttons, restroom doors, etc. Use EPA-approved disinfectants and use according to label instructions. 

Begin identifying co-workers and individuals with whom the employee may have had close contact, in the event the individual tests positive. Close contact means someone was closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes from an individual who is positive for COVID-19. It does not matter if the individuals were wearing face coverings. If the individual ends up testing positive, the exposed individuals identified as close contacts must self-quarantine at home for 14 days following the last date of close contact.

An employee’s family member has been diagnosed with COVID-19. What should I do?

If the employee has a household contact or close contact who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the employee must self-quarantine at home for 14 days after the last date of close contact with the positive individual. The employee will likely be contacted by the Health Department indicating they are a close contact. They must follow the guidance provided, which will likely be to self-quarantine for 14 days.

If an employee develops symptoms, they should seek testing and follow the return to work guidelines (10 days after symptoms started and 24 hours after fever has resolved and symptoms improved).

An employee has reported that they came into contact with someone rumored to be positive for COVID-19. What should I do?

Remember that we have “community spread” of COVID-19, which means there is an ongoing risk of exposure everywhere we go. It is critical to wear face coverings, and to practice social distancing and good hand hygiene.

Try to find out more information about the potential exposure. How certain is the employee about the individual’s COVID-19 status? Was the person visibly ill? Did the employee have close contact with the individual, being closer than 6 feet from for more than 15 minutes? 

In most cases, the employee should self-monitor for symptoms. They can also seek out COVID-19 testing. If the employee develops symptoms, they should follow the return to work guidelines (10 days after symptoms started and 24 hours after fever has resolved and symptoms improved). However, if the employee is contacted by the Health Department and is told they are a close contact and they need to quarantine, they must follow that guidance.

What do I do when my employee shows up to work ill or becomes ill at work? 

If an employee comes to work ill or becomes ill while at work, they should be directed to go home immediately, even if their symptoms are mild. If they are having trouble breathing or cannot keep fluids down, have them contact their doctor right away. Encourage the employee to be tested for COVID-19. Follow the guidelines for a positive worker if the individual ends up testing positive.

Thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and other elements of the work environment of the employee, along with frequently touched surfaces and objects such as doorknobs/push bars, elevator buttons, restroom doors, etc. Use EPA-approved disinfectants and use according to label instructions. 

Begin identifying co-workers and individuals with whom the employee may have had close contact, in the event the individual tests positive. Close contact means someone was closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes from an individual who is positive for COVID-19. It does not matter if the individuals were wearing face coverings. If the individual ends up testing positive, the exposed individuals identified as close contacts must self-quarantine at home for 14 days following the last date of close contact.

Returning to work

When can my employee come back to work if they had symptoms of illness? 

Employees who have been ill with COVID-19 symptoms can return to work 10 days after symptoms started and at least 24 hours after fever has resolved without the use of fever reducing medications and symptoms have improved. The Health Department in the county where your employee lives will give the employee the date they can return to work.

If an employee who has mild symptoms tests negative, when can they go back to work? 

If an employee is ill with mild symptoms that improve in a short period of time, and that person also tests negative for COVID-19, the individual can return to work. They do not have to continue to stay at home for the 10 full days after symptoms begin. If symptoms continue after a negative test, they should see their health care provider to rule out any other possible illnesses.

How do I count the 10 days of isolation or 14 days of quarantine?

For isolation (sick or positive individual), the day the individual first showed symptoms of illness is “Day 0.” Count 10 days past that date for the return-to-work date. Be sure that the employee also has 24 hours of no fever and a vast improvement in symptoms. If the person did not have symptoms, the date the positive test was taken is “Day 0.” Count 10 days past that date for the return-to-work date.

  • Example 1: Employee developed fever 6/14/20 (Day 0). Fever went away on its own 6/16/20. Employee has no other symptoms. Employee can return to work 6/25/20 (Day 11, which is 10 full days after illness began and at least 24 hours after fever stopped).
  • Example 2: Employee decided to get tested even though they did not have symptoms. Tested 7/20/20. Results came back positive 7/24/20. Date of test on 7/20/20 is “Day 0.” Employee could return to work 7/31/20 (Day 11, which is 10 full days after date positive test was taken).

For quarantine (exposed to a COVID-19 positive person or traveled internationally), the last day the person was exposed to the positive individual or the day the individual returned from travel is “Day 0.” Count 14 days past that date for the return-to-work-date. It is important to note that the quarantine time period does not begin until after the last date of close contact with the positive individual. For this reason, it is critical for positive individuals to isolate from other household members. If they do not properly isolate, the close contact must be out during the 10 days of the positive household member’s isolation time period, PLUS 14 days of quarantine. 

  • Example 1: Employee has close contact with an individual on 6/14/20 who tested positive a couple days later (Day 0). Employee can return to work 6/29/20 (Day 15, which is 14 full days after exposure).
  • Example 2: Employee’s spouse develops symptoms 7/1 and tests positive 7/3. Employee does not isolate from spouse at home. Employee must stay home during their spouse’s isolation period through 7/11. Then employee begins their 14-day quarantine period. This employee would not be able to return to work until 7/26!
  • Note: If the employee develops symptoms while in quarantine, they must then revert to the 10 days past symptoms and 24 hours without symptoms to return to work. See isolation example. 

COVID-19 testing

What types of tests are available for COVID-19?

There are two types of tests available for COVID-19. A diagnostic test (also called viral test or PCR) tests for current infection. An antibody test or serology test looks for past infection. 

Where can I get tested?

In Washtenaw County, most testing sites are using diagnostic tests and a small number are offer antibody testing. Check with your health care provider or see www.washtenaw.org/COVID19test for testing locations.  

Are all employees required to be tested for COVID-19? 

Workers reporting to work are now part of a prioritization group for testing, but there is no testing requirement. The current recommendation is for employees in public-facing positions to be tested for COVID-19 every two weeks. Some local testing locations will test asymptomatic individuals. Call testing locations before going to see if people without symptoms will be tested.

Should I get a diagnostic test?

If you have any symptoms, get a diagnostic test to check for current infection. 

If you are working in person, consider getting a diagnostic test to check for current infection.

If you work in retail, at a restaurant, or in another position with the public, we encourage you to be tested regularly. The new “testing cadence” from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommends anyone working in public-facing positions to be tested every two weeks. 

Can I get a diagnostic test without symptoms?  

Yes. But remember a negative diagnostic test only means you were not infected on the day of the test. Continue to practice prevention measures to protect yourself and others. 

What should I do while waiting for diagnostic COVID-19 test results? 

If you have any symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19:

  • Stay at home except to get medical care.
  • Stay away from other people in your home. 
    1. Use a separate room and bathroom if possible. 
    2. Wear a mask if you go into shared spaces. 
    3. Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects. 
    4. Contact the Health Department if you need temporary housing (734-544-6700).
  • Call ahead before visiting a doctor. See www.washtenaw.org/COVID19 and click the “What to do if you’re sick” button for information on managing your symptoms and when to get medical care.
  • Make a list of anyone you came in contact with 48 hours before your symptoms started or since you were exposed.

If you have no symptoms and no known contact with someone who tested positive:

  • Still try to stay away from others as much as possible.
  • Keep track of anyone you come in close contact with after your test, as well as 48 hours before your test.

Should I get an antibody test?

Washtenaw County Health Department DOES NOT recommend antibody testing at this time. If you do get an antibody test, we strongly recommend both an antibody test and a diagnostic test. 

What happens if I test positive for antibodies?

There are currently many unknowns regarding COVID-19 antibody testing. It is not clear how accurate available testing is or if it tells us anything about future immunity to COVID-19. Antibody tests should not be used to make individual health decisions, such as returning to work. We don’t know if a positive antibody test means you are immune to future COVID-19 infection. Do not assume a positive antibody result means you’re immune to COVID-19. Please continue to protect yourself and others with social distancing, face coverings, handwashing, and other prevention measures.

If an employee doesn’t have symptoms but is tested for COVID-19, what do the test results mean?

  • Positive diagnostic test: The individual should self-isolate for 10 days from the date the test was conducted. If no symptoms develop, they can return to work after those 10 days. If an employee develops symptoms, they should follow the return to work guidelines (10 days after symptoms started and 24 hours after fever has resolved and symptoms improved). Health Department staff will also be in touch with to conduct contact tracing and to connect the employee with needed resources during isolation.
  • Negative diagnostic test: No action needed. Just remember this is a point in time for the test. The individual could have been recently exposed and tested negative or could be exposed after testing.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

What type of PPE should I wear?

Healthcare workers should wear N95 masks. For appropriate use, N95 masks must be fit tested annually to ensure protection. Surgical masks can be worn by those not in direct care of a patient or providing treatment that cause aerosolization. Healthcare workers may also need to wear gloves, surgical masks along with a face shield (if N95 not available), gowns, and goggles.

Cloth masks, scarfs, bandanas, or handkerchiefs can be worn by employees, volunteers, and the public.

Some people are choosing to wear disposable gloves as they perform everyday tasks. However, gloves don’t make sense for most people to wear. Using your ungloved hands and washing them often is the best bet for the typical tasks of everyday life. Wearing gloves might also create a false sense of security, lead to less attention to hand washing, or contribute to cross-contamination when removing or reusing gloves.

Do customers need to wear masks?

Under the governor’s Executive Order 2020-153, everyone who can medically tolerate a face covering must wear a face covering when in an indoor public space, and when outdoors if 6 feet social distance cannot be maintained. Face coverings can include a homemade cloth mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief. There are limited exemptions top this requirement.

Businesses that are open to the public must refuse entry and service to individuals who fail to comply, and they must post signs at all entrances instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside. The state’s website has posters and more information about face coverings.  

Do my employees have to wear masks at work?

Face coverings can help prevent sick or asymptomatic people from infecting others. Employers must supply face coverings to all employees. Cloth masks are acceptable, as surgical masks should be reserved for those in health care and first responders. Clear plastic face shields are also an option if an individual has difficulty wearing a mask.

Based on current executive orders, these situations which require or specifically recommend face coverings:

  • Any individual (employees, visitors, and customers) able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief, when in any enclosed public space; when outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household; and when waiting for or riding on public transportation, while in a taxi or ridesharing vehicle, or when using a private car service as a means of hired transportation.
  • Employees who are not able to consistently maintain six feet of separation from other individuals in the workplace must wear a face covering. (In addition, employees who are not able to consistently maintain three feet of separation from other individuals in the workplace should consider wearing face shields.)
  • Employees working in the front of a food establishment must wear a face covering (waitstaff, host/hostess, bartenders, managers, bussers, etc.). Face coverings should be worn by employees in the back of the house (staff preparing food, doing dishes, cleaning, etc.), and must be worn if 6-foot distancing cannot be maintained. 
  • Customers entering a food establishment must wear a face covering until they are seated, and must put the face covering back on when getting up from the table to go to the restroom, etc.
  • Employees who had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 but who are still allowed to work should wear a mask at work for 14 days after last exposure to the person.

We strongly recommend that all employees wear masks while at work, if they are medically able to tolerate wearing one. Please encourage employees to wear masks, particularly if they will be in contact with other employees or the public, or if they work in areas where 6-foot social distancing is difficult to be maintained. Employers can also establish guidelines that require their employees to wear masks.

How often should I change my surgical or N95 masks?

Surgical masks should be thrown away after each shift. N95 masks should be used according to the healthcare facility’s policy and manufacturer’s instructions. If at any time your mask becomes soiled or crushed, it should be removed, discarded, and a new mask used. Hand hygiene must be followed when putting on (donning) and taking off (doffing) a mask.

How should I wear and care for a cloth face covering?

A cloth face covering like a mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief should cover both your mouth and nose and allow for breathing without restriction. The face covering should also include multiple layers of fabric/cloth. Masks should be secured with ties or ear loops. Hand hygiene must be followed when putting on (donning) and taking off (doffing) a mask. 

Cloth face coverings should be washed after each use. Depending on type of cloth mask, you may get over 30 washings. Be careful when drying the fabric. The shape of cloth face coverings should never change or shrink.

Hand hygiene & respiratory etiquette

What should I do if visitors or customers have symptoms of illness, such as coughing or sneezing? 

Customers are required to wear a face covering, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief, when in any enclosed public space, if they can medically tolerate one. 

Employees should follow strict social distancing guidance and maintain at least a 6-foot distance from anyone, especially those who are having symptoms. If your employee must be closer to the customer, advise them to minimize time spent with symptomatic customers to less than 15 minutes, if possible. Be sure to provide the public with tissues and trash receptacles. Have a no-touch hand sanitizer dispenser near customer entrances.

Is hand sanitizer equal to washing your hands? 

Washing hands with warm running water and soap is preferred whenever available. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t kill ALL types of germs, such as norovirus, some parasites, hepatitis A, and Clostridium difficile. Hand sanitizers also may not remove harmful chemicals such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead. Handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs, pesticides, and metals on hands. 

Fortunately, alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can kill the virus that causes COVID-19. Hand sanitizer should be used when running water hand washing is not available or practical. For example, hand sanitizer could be used after checking out at a grocery store cash register or moving between workstations in a factory.

What’s the correct way to wash your hands? 

When washing your hands, wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Scrub all surfaces of your hands, including the palms, backs, fingers, between your fingers, and under your nails. Keep scrubbing for 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Rinse your hands under clean, running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Handwashing materials and posters are available online.  

What’s the correct way to use hand sanitizer?

Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol, especially in schools and childcare facilities. Apply enough product on hands to cover all surfaces. Rub hands together, until hands feel dry. This should take around 20 seconds. Do not rinse or wipe off the hand sanitizer before it’s dry.

Cleaning & disinfection

What should I use to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces? 

Wear reusable or disposable gloves for routine cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc. Clean surfaces using soap and water or a cleaning agent, then use disinfectant. Cleaning with soap and water or a cleaning agent reduces number of germs, dirt, and impurities on the surface. Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm running water after removing gloves.

For disinfection, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. A list of products that are specifically EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (concentration, application method, and contact time, etc.).

Consider using wipeable covers for electronics. If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider using alcohol-based wipes or spray containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry these surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids. 

Any product to be used for cleaning or disinfecting should have Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS), provided with the product or available online. The information must be shared with employees. Appropriate training must be given to employees on safe handling and use of the product, potential health effects of product use, and personal protective equipment. 

If I can’t locate specific EPA-approved cleaners or wipes, etc., what can I use to clean surfaces?

A simple diluted bleach water solution is effective against the COVID-19 virus. Check the label to see if your bleach is intended for disinfection. Some bleaches, such as those designed for safe use on colored clothing, may not be suitable for disinfection. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. To make a bleach solution, mix
5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water OR 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Wipe the solution on the surface to be disinfected. Leave solution on the surface for at least 1 minute. Bleach solutions should be made fresh every 24 hours.

Policies

What else can I do to help keep staff and customers safe?

Space is safe! Ensure that employees and customers limit close contact (stay 6 feet apart). Create a physical barrier between customers and staff that ensures 6 feet of distance at routine points of contact (e.g. purchase point). In areas of high-volume traffic, utilize spacing tools for checks and lines. For example, put tape on the floor to keep people adequately spaced. or place arrows in the aisle to direct the flow of movement in one direction. Provide services by appointment. Provide online order, electronic payment, and curbside pickup or delivery options. Limit the number of people in the establishment at one time. Deliver services remotely (e.g. phone, video, or web). Reconfigure retail space to enable people to be located at least 6 feet apart (reduce the amount of inventory on the floor, use smaller displays, strategically place inventory, etc.). 

Provide soap and water in the workplace. Place hand sanitizers at entrance to encourage hand hygiene among customers entering the retail establishment. Provide masks and/or cloth face shields to employees. Require staff (and customers) to wear a non-medical cloth mask covering their face and mouth. Conduct daily checks for symptoms of illness and ensure employees stay home when they are sick with fever, coughing, sneezing or unusual symptoms. 

Discourage workers from sharing phones, desks, keyboards, cash registers, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect equipment before and after use. Establish staggered lunch and break times for staff. Hang posters that encourage the use of face coverings, hand hygiene, and social distancing.