Questions to ask Risk Management before I return to work
March 15, 2020 9:18 AM   Subscribe

I've been off work since Monday (after I left to go to the doctor) due to something that could very well have been the coronavirus, but I don't know that for sure...

... since my doc was unable or unwilling to test me (but she did listen to my lungs and check for flu, which was negative). I only know it was unlike anything I have ever had before. At five days I turned the corner and felt a lot better (but still kept self-imposed quarantine). I am expected back at my part-time work on Tuesday, or at least to call in. Work is the counter of a small community/senior center serving 0-15 people a day. I am especially concerned for the older people that come in here.
Besides "what is your protocol for returning after ill" what kinds of questions should I be asking Risk Management Monday? It's a municipal job, low paying, but
supplements my income (and I realize income may soon be the least of my worries). I'm pushing 60 and I had a very bad case of pneumonia before, so I'm in at least one category to watch. RM also being a load of crap, I've thought of just telling them buh-bye. I think I could also buy time by telling them a 14 day hold was required. I am sure I can get documentation from the doctor. After all, just because you feel better....
But, if you were me, what would you ask them? I was planning on calling on Monday.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The CDC says: Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).

So, if you aren't completely better for 24 hours then you absolutely should not go in. Given that it is a Senior Center, they would be justified in setting a high bar.
posted by metahawk at 9:34 AM on March 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Wanted to add that the 14 day is for people who are exposed but haven't developed any symptoms yet. It is irrelevant to how long you should stay out if you actually get the illness which should be based on making sure the illness has run its course.
posted by metahawk at 9:36 AM on March 15, 2020

Does your state or locality have any protocols? If you did have Covid-19, the public health department might want to trace it and know the people you have been in contact with since a couple of days before you were symptomatic.
posted by NotLost at 9:46 AM on March 15, 2020

Since you are serving a segment of the public that is considered particularly high risk, I can't imagine why your employer would want you back so soon after experiencing a miserable virus. I'm surprised you're even considering it. According to this article, Covid-19 patients are likely the most contagious prior to developing symptoms and during the early days after developing symptoms. However, it's recommended to observe a full 14 days of self-quarantine after developing symptoms.

No matter what Risk Management tells you, stay home. You are likely still vulnerable yourself, having just started recovering from a viral illness. So, if you're not inclined to play it absolutely safe on behalf of your clients, maybe a little self-interest will keep you home.

And, please, don't factor in the negligible income you obtain from this part-time gig when making a decision about whether to go into work and potentially expose vulnerable people to this illness. I understand you're trying to present the pros and cons of going into work, but this - the small amount of pay you'll forgo - really shouldn't be part of the calculus when determining whether to expose someone to a potentially fatal illness.
posted by MissPitts at 9:47 AM on March 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The CDC says:
Discontinuing home isolation
Stay at home until instructed to leave: Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low.
Talk to your healthcare provider: The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.

It might be a good idea to talk to your health care provider on Monday. Personally I would at least call in sick for Tuesday. And I wonder if your organization is changing its sick policies right now - mine has already.

As a small note: Can we as a community not shame people or small businesses for caring about financial and business impacts? Obviously this poster is putting concern for clients high up there (At it should be, #1) but financial stress is real as well.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:37 AM on March 15, 2020 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: I said I was expected back at my job Tuesday. I didn't say I was planning on going back. The question is: "What questions do I need to ask RM?"

How do I know I'm exposed, since they didn't or wouldn't give a test?

And these persons that are already piling on, thinking the absolute worst of me, I'm just trying to get information. Please read what's written: Income may soon be the least of my worries.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 10:51 AM on March 15, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: If I were you, I would call in and tell them that I was previously unwell with something very suspicious, that you are concerned about spreading the virus to a particularly vulnerable population, of which you are in the risk group yourself, and that to be safe you believe you should stay in for one more week to be sure you are totally clear of symptoms. I also think an extra week should buy some time for science and medicine to learn a little bit more about how things are spreading and how to handle the situation from Italy and South Korea. Things are moving very rapidly and we know the very least right now.

I'm not a doctor or an epidemiologist or a virologist or anything like that. And I don't know your financial situation, but my experience throughout this entire thing has been we learn more and more about what to do daily and we are right in the middle of a U curve of knowledge and this week will likely be pivotal for the US. If you can stay in this week, that's probably for the best.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:12 PM on March 15, 2020

Based on a previous AskMe about coronavirus resources for institutions, these links may be helpful for forming questions:
The World Health Organization has published Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19 (Mar. 3, 2020) in the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public section of their website.

Singapore's General advisory for workplace measures in response to DORSCON Orange situation in Singapore (now updated as of Mar. 15, 2020) was linked in a previous AskMe about workplace planning.

Washington State's King County is offering Guidance for retail businesses and service operators to protect from the spread of COVID-19 (Last Updated March 13, 2020)

And the EEOC offers guidance about Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace
posted by katra at 1:17 PM on March 15, 2020

And there is this, posted by RichardP: The California Department of Public Health has assembled a collection of COVID-19 guidance documents specific to a variety of institutions, professions, and facilities.
posted by katra at 1:29 PM on March 15, 2020

How do I know I'm exposed, since they didn't or wouldn't give a test?

From the ongoing news updates posted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Covid-19 is rapidly spreading in America. The country does not look ready (Economist, Mar. 12, 2020)
This article points out some of the reasons why America is struggling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. One major problem—difficulties with rolling out testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus—means that many Americans may have undetected disease and are transmitting it to others. “In literal terms, we have no idea about the number of cases because nobody has tested to any meaningful extent,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. “Tens of thousands of cases in the US seems plausible.”
And from the Guardian: Coronavirus: Trump's stumbles and testing failures pave way to disaster, experts say (Mar. 15, 2020)
Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, admitted in testimony to Congress this week that authorities had failed to respond swiftly to the spread of coronavirus. “The idea of anybody getting [testing] easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we are not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we are not,” he said. “It is a failing. I mean, let’s admit it.” The US is now bracing itself for a huge wave of new infections without a coherent federal government response.
And, previously from the Guardian: Ex-Obama official warns US health system faces 'tsunami' over coronavirus (Mar. 14, 2020)
Other medical experts have also warned the public to brace for an overwhelming number of coronavirus cases. “We’re about to experience the worst public health disaster since polio,” said Dr Martin Makary, professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, speaking to Yahoo Finance.

“Don’t believe the numbers when you see, even on our Johns Hopkins website, that 1,600 Americans have the virus. No, that means 1,600 got the test, tested positive. “There are probably 25 to 50 people who have the virus for every one person who is confirmed. I think we have between 50,000 and half a million cases right now walking around in the United States.”
posted by katra at 1:53 PM on March 15, 2020

No one can tell you if you were exposed or not, only a test can do that, and you can’t get one. So if in doubt, stay home for now. Thank you for caring enough about the community to ask.
posted by Jubey at 2:58 PM on March 15, 2020

Response by poster: My sister just texted me that the Mayor is having a press conference right now. She just closed all libraries and community centers.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 3:31 PM on March 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

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