my workplace is becoming a super spreader site
December 13, 2021 12:05 PM   Subscribe

And yet here we are, coming into the office every day anyway. Am I crazy or is my company completely mismanaging how to handle a workforce with multiple positive COVID cases?

In the past two weeks, no less than six people in my company (less than 50 people on site) have tested positive for COVID. One of them worked in the same very small office as I do.

I'm quitting this damn job on Friday anyway because I got a better one, but seriously, when I came back from lunch to yet ANOTHER email from HR saying that someone had tested positive for COVID I wanted to fucking flip my table and walk out of here. Every goddamn time they have emailed us a positive COVID notification here they couch it in language like "the person who tested positive was following all safety protocols properly and didn't start showing symptoms till after they left work so risk of exposure is minimum."

Yeah, maybe with ONE positive COVID case. But now #6?! In ten days?! Safety protocols are obviously NOT being followed properly.

They are telling us to stay masked up in the office at all time and go home immediately if we feel we are getting COVID symptoms and follow up with HR after seeing a doctor. This is just fucking stupid. We are in a county in NYS where the Delta varient has been raging. Why the FUCK are they requiring us to keep coming into the office at this point? 6 OUT OF 45 EMPLOYEES ON SITE HAVE COVID RIGHT THE FUCK NOW. We all have laptops!

Every other goddamn day it feels like someone else who works here tests positive for COVID. Is this an appropriate way for my company to be handling this? To be clear, I'm giving notice this Friday because I found a new job, but I really would PREFER NOT TO GET COVID AT MY CURRENT JOB BEFORE STARTING MY NEW JOB, YA KNOW?!

Thoughts welcome, thanks.
posted by nayantara to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: They are telling us to stay masked up in the office at all time and go home immediately if we feel we are getting COVID symptoms and follow up with HR after seeing a doctor.

Sounds to me like you feel you are getting COVID symptoms right now so you're going to work from home effective immediately until confirmed. Test results from your doctor are pending. Oh wait now it's Friday and you're giving notice and your doctor's test results are...

Go home!!!
posted by phunniemee at 12:11 PM on December 13, 2021 [140 favorites]

You are not crazy.

Two options your workplace could consider.

1. Rapid test everyone who comes into the office two or three or more days in a row. If they've gotten 6 positives, there are likely more. Consider symptoms to be irrelevant here.
2. Have everyone work from home for a couple of days, and have every do a rapid test each of those days. On the third day, come back to the office and rapid test.

You're leaving, but other people aren't. The company should keep them safe.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 12:11 PM on December 13, 2021

Also you can call your county health department and see what your options are (and/or your boss's obligations).
posted by rhizome at 12:15 PM on December 13, 2021 [4 favorites], stay home, like phunnieme say. What are they going to do, fire you?
posted by Omnomnom at 12:15 PM on December 13, 2021 [10 favorites]

Testing positive doesn’t always mean you are contagious.
NPR story
Your company sounds like they’re not handling this well, and if you’re leaving, maybe stress that at your Zoom exit interview.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:24 PM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree they're not handling it well, but I'd also suggest you revisit your confidence in safety protocols. People getting infected does not mean that safety protocols are obviously not being followed. Safety protocols, even when followed perfectly, do not prevent 100% of infections. Don't go to another job expecting zero infections because people there will follow the protocols. The way to (almost) completely avoid risk of infection is to stay away from other people. The most effective prevention a company can provide is not having an office where people gather, so that's what you should be looking for IMHO.
posted by primethyme at 12:29 PM on December 13, 2021 [14 favorites]

In the past two weeks, no less than six people in my company (less than 50 people on site) have tested positive for COVID.

Six people have gotten COVID who work in your office, or six people have gotten COVID in your office? There's a vast difference. If people who you work with are getting COVID, but they're not getting it in the office, then your office isn't "becoming a super spreader site."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:46 PM on December 13, 2021 [8 favorites]

Some language that might help, if all the cases at your office are epidemiologically linked (as in they got COVID from someone else at work, not through their kid at school or something) then that would be considered a cluster (5 or more cases).

I haven’t been staying as up to date, but from when I last checked the CDC (I’m taking NYS to mean New York State) doesn’t require people who are vaccinated to quarantine after exposure unless they start showing symptoms. It’s entirely possible your office is following “the rules” but the rules just aren’t good enough.

And as for some practical considerations for yourself and your last 4 days, there’s been some great advice listed above.
posted by raccoon409 at 1:09 PM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

A scenerio in which I am asymptomatic and contagious because I work in close proximity to a woman who tested positive for COVID last Wednesday - is that within the realm of possibility?

When I have been in similar scenarios (recent known close/prolonged indoor contact with someone who has tested positive, even though I’m vaxxed and asymptomatic), I’ve gone and gotten a test for the peace of mind of the at-risk folks in my circle of contact. At least where I live, that scenario is considered good enough justification to get a testing appointment. I know it’s not what you asked, but just throwing it out there in case it helps to hear what others would do in your shoes!
posted by chaiyai at 2:00 PM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

If there are 45 people who work in your office, and 6 get Covid in 10 days, that's 13%. I would be quite concerned. Maybe someone with Covid visited the office, whatever, but I'd get my stuff, do meaningful and diligent work from home. My strategy is Risk Reduction.

I assume you're vaccinated? Because you should be vaccinated, regardless of variant.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I am vaxxed. Booster shot scheduled for this Saturday.

Yeah that 13% figure is what has me freaked out. Small enough workplace that we know the identities of everybody who tested positive despite HR trying to keep that info locked down. Reports all around are that no one was showing visible symptoms in the office. They all went home and discovered they had a fever, had lost sense of smell/taste, or both, late at night or when they woke up in the morning to get ready for work. All six who are out are people I interact with regularly in person, including one who sits at a desk barely 6 feet from mine. But it's not like there's any contact tracing going on.

My band's drummer got COVID right before Thanksgiving, he was vaxxed and boostered.

I don't want to get COVID right before Xmas, right before starting a new job, right before I start rehearsals for my band's tour (three days after Xmas). There is too much shit that can go wrong for me right now. Not that there is ever a good time to get COVID.
posted by nayantara at 3:58 PM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The problem is the culture of this company is not one where I can unilaterally choose to work from home, even with a laptop. There's a big fucking rigmarole for getting permission to work from home, and the only reasons it's allowed at the moment are if there is inclement weather or if you have COVID but are otherwise functional. So I can't just... stay home and log on. If I decide to do some risk reduction I'm basically going to have to say "sorry, I don't feel safe coming to the office, so I guess I quit."
posted by nayantara at 4:01 PM on December 13, 2021

> I'm basically going to have to say "sorry, I don't feel safe coming to the office, so I guess I quit."

Yes, this is the correct thing to do, since you were about to quit on Friday anyway.

For those of you who aren't able to quit, form rank & file workplace safety committees and collectively fight to save lives. The US is about to pass 800,000 COVID deaths. The policies in place in most workplaces protect profits, not lives.
posted by action man bow-tie at 4:33 PM on December 13, 2021 [14 favorites]

Best answer: First, refuse to come in and stick to working remotely. If they fire you, sue.
posted by metatuesday at 5:23 AM on December 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Welp. Woke up this morning with a sore throat and fever. Called in, went to urgent care for a PCR test. While I was in waiting room my SO calls and says he's developed a cough and is having trouble breathing and wants to know when my results will be back (not till tomorrow). I told him to go home. When I'm done here at urgent care we'll both take some at home tests I bought back when my drummer tested positive for COVID.

This is rapidly becoming a nightmare. My SO works in what is essentially an empty building and has two direct reports who are remote. He leaves his office once a day if that to go to the bank. If I gave him COVID I will be so angry at myself for not having made a stink about this last week when the woman who shares office space with me and the three others in my Dept tested positive.
posted by nayantara at 10:48 AM on December 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Still waiting on results of my PCR test.

Trying to prepare a resignation letter. Don't know what to write.

Boyfriend is still coughing. He's home. He never calls in sick. Sleeping. Going to take him to urgent care when he wakes up.


If anyone has suggestions for what to write in my resignation letter at this point I would appreciate the help. I feel numb right now.
posted by nayantara at 10:04 AM on December 15, 2021

"Dear Boss,

This letter is to inform you that I resign from the position of Job at Company, effective on Date.


There, now you don't have to figure out what to write. A resignation letter isn't an exit interview or a thank you note. It's a form for HR to file. If there are other things you want to say to your boss or to the company, you can say them when you're feeling better.

I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and feel better soon!
posted by decathecting at 10:18 PM on December 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

This may be a dumb question but why put in a resignation letter today? Ride out all the sick time you have and then submit a letter. They clearly don’t care about you anyway so there’s no need to give a two week notice.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:21 AM on December 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I apologize for thread sitting. I got my test results back - came back negative (relieved) but I don't have any sick time remaining so I returned to work.

Should I just keep working and put in notice on the last day before the holiday break (we are getting the week btwn Xmas and New Years off)?

I'm at a loss right now. The doctor who gave me the COVID test was pretty appalled by the way my company is handling these multiple positive test results. She told me she didn't feel it was safe for me to return to work. I feel pretty helpless and paralyzed as to what to do.
posted by nayantara at 6:12 AM on December 16, 2021

You were already planning to quit tomorrow, do I have that right? Definitely don't stay longer for some reason! Quit today if you want; unless you have something major happening tomorrow, there's no meaningful difference between doing it today or tomorrow. Do it and be done.

If you can afford to potentially miss your final two weeks' pay if they tell you not to come back, tell them your doctor's recommended you work out your final two weeks from home. And then do exactly that. Who cares if they're mad? You're done. You don't need their reference since you have a new job.
posted by Stacey at 7:50 AM on December 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

metatuesday already gave you the best advice. follow it.
posted by troywestfield at 10:35 AM on December 16, 2021

Yeah, get paid as long as they'll pay you while you act in your own interests of both health and finances, you don't have to give them a vote in what that looks like. Make them fire you, most people dislike having to fire people so you can revel in the possibliity that you might be causing these jerks that kind of discomfort.
posted by rhizome at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Would the doctor who told you that it's not safe for you to return to work be willing to write a note saying you're medically recommended to work from home until further notice?

But honestly, I'd send a letter of resignation today, and let the company know that you'll be working from home through your notice period. if they don't like it, they can terminate you, and you already have a new gig.
posted by decathecting at 9:57 AM on December 17, 2021

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