See guidelines for COVID-19 patients returning to work

Published 12:13 am Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Coronavirus patients will have to meet guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be able to return to work, according to a letter from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Port Arthur Health Department Director Judith Smith provided a letter from the federal agency dated April 10 that addressed reports of employers requiring employees to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test before returning to work following an illness.

“Not everybody is going to be able to be retested,” Smith said. “Some businesses want people to be retested. Some have said they will pay for their people to be retested, but as far as coming back through the testing site [at Jack Brooks Regional Airport], that’s not what’s recommended because the testing site is mostly recommended — if recommended — for people who are symptomatic and needing the first diagnosis.”

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The guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a patient’s clearance to return to work are:

“For these individuals, DSHS recommends that they stay home until they are fever-free for at least 72 hours, their symptoms have improved and at least seven days have passed since their symptoms first appeared,” the letter reads. “After they have met these criteria, they can return to work.”

It is not clear whether patients can be re-infected with coronavirus, Smith said, but testing could be done, if necessary, to determine whether a person is free of the disease.

Under CDC guidelines, she said, a patient can be cleared if he or she tests negative on two different swabs 24 hours apart, shows no symptoms for three days, is afebrile (without fever) and off antipyretics, which are used to prevent or reduce fever (e.g., Tylenol), for seven days from the onset of symptoms.

Those who meet CDC criteria for clearance may be given a letter for their employers, Smith said.

“If businesses are requiring more, we have to see where the person can go to get the two negative tests,” Smith said. “We’ll search. We’ll see. The call center wants people who have never been tested.”

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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