coronavirus pandemic

Hidden Danger: New Health Order May Unmask Workplace COVID Cases

As anybody who's been paying attention can tell you, not all coronavirus community outbreaks are traced back to bar/restaurants, gyms andr healthcare settings.

In fact, it's not uncommon for outbreaks -- that's a situation where three or more cases are focused in a community setting -- to take place at workplaces. On Wednesday, for example, San Diego County officials said there had been two such outbreaks at "businesses."

Up until now, employers were on their own in deciding whether to inform workers about such occurrences.

"We currently provide recommended guidance, where an outbreak has occurred, and we recommend that they notify their employees that there has been an outbreak," San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said on Wednesday at the board of supervisors coronavirus news conference.

As of Thursday morning at 12 a.m., however, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, stated in the latest public health order that business operators would now be required to notify all of their employees when "three or more cases are identified at the workplace within a span of 14 days."

"We believe that most entities are acting responsibly in notifying their employees, but with the growing number of outbreaks we're seeing, we're gonna go the extra step to ensure that employees are notified if there was an outbreak by their employer," Fletcher said on Wednesday, adding later that the "we want to make sure that employers are notifying every employee at that physical location, even if they were not in close contact, that there has been an outbreak at their place of employment, and give them instructions about steps and things that they should take."

While business leaders are being urged by the county to inform their workers of all such exposures, they still have discretion in that regard: "A strong recommendation is made that employers also provide such notice
when at least one employee is diagnosed with COVID-19 in the workplace," the update to the public health order also states.

As of Wednesday, there have been 28,287 cases of coronavirus and 552 deaths since the pandemic hit San Diego County on Feb. 14. Go here for NBC 7’s complete coverage of the COVID-19 crises

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