When Can I Return to Work After a Bout of Coronavirus?

According to the CDC, people who test positive for the Coronavirus or people experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Now, the agency has revised its policy to suggest the return may even be sooner than that.

People with COVID-19 who have stayed home (home isolated) can stop home isolation under the following conditions:

  • If you will not have a test to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave home after these three things have happened:
  • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without medication that reduces fevers)
  • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
  • at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

In all cases, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department. 

The decision to stop home isolation should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider and state and local health departments. Local decisions depend on local circumstances.

A major concern is the secondary spread of the virus after an employee returns to the workplace.

According to the CDC, this recommendation will prevent most, but not all instances of secondary spread.  The risk of transmission after recovery is likely substantially less than that during illness; recovered persons will not be shedding large amounts of the virus by this point if they are shedding at all.

Certain employers can choose to apply more stringent criteria for certain returning workers where a higher threshold to prevent transmission is warranted.  These criteria can include requiring a longer time after recovery or requiring they get tested to show they are not shedding virus.

Such persons include healthcare workers in close contact with vulnerable persons at high-risk for illness and death if those persons get COVID-19. It also includes persons who work in critical infrastructure or with high-value human assets (e.g., military) where introduction of COVID-19 could cause major disruptions or reduce national security.

Lastly, persons who have conditions that might weaken their immune system could have prolonged viral shedding after recovery. Such persons should discuss with their healthcare provider how best to assess if they are safe to return to work; this might include getting tested again to show that they are not shedding virus.