The Department of Public Health and Social Services provided guidance to businesses on how to deal with employees who test positive for COVID-19 and other COVID-19-related issues in the workplace.
The information was shared during a Zoom meeting hosted by the Guam Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Guam SHRM President Daphne Leon Guerrero presented Dr. Suzanne Kaneshiro, chief public health officer at DPHSS, and Annette Aguon, DPHSS COVID-19 Epidemiology/Surveillance Branch lead, with selected questions from the membership.
Kaneshiro explained that when a person tests positive for COVID-19 the individual must be notified of the results by their health care provider within one hour upon receipt of the test results.
Health providers, whether private, public or military, are then required to notify DPHSS of the positive result, said Kaneshiro.
She said at that point the surveillance team at DPHSS notifies the isolation and investigation unit and a home assessment is conducted to determine whether or not the person or person’s home is conducive for home isolation. If the person’s home is not deemed acceptable for home isolation the person is then brought to the Bayview Hotel in Tumon for isolation. The investigation unit also contacts the patient to find out about close contacts and household contacts.
A full investigation and contact tracing can take two or three days, Kaneshiro said.
She said they also advise patients to inform their employer of their status.
“Sometimes they don’t tell their employer,” she said, “We encourage them to tell their employer if they are positive or have been exposed ... to warn other employees.”
Aguon said when Public Health receives a report of a positive case they contact the person’s employer but do not reveal the identity of the person. She said they advise the business not to use the area the infected person worked in for at least 24 hours.
“If you can’t wait for 24 hours, (wait) as long as possible to enter those areas and then disinfect and properly sanitize with U.S. EPA approved solutions,” Aguon said.
Businesses then must make an independent decision on whether or not to close their establishment and whether or not they will make the positive case known to the public.
“That varies based on the facility and also the staffing pattern,” Aguon said.
The governor's Physician Advisory Group chairman, Dr. Hoa Nguyen has said that they recommend the establishments be told to let the public know if there's been a positive case established. If they don't, then Public Health should let the public know so that residents can contact public health if they've been there.
As far as when an employee who test positive can safely return to work, Aguon said if an exposed person is monitored by DPHSS and does not show any symptoms within the designated amount of time during quarantine they can be cleared to return to work.
DPHSS cannot provide clearance for patients they did not monitor, Kaneshiro added.
Aguon said timing is also important when testing those who have had close contact with an infected person.
“If we test too early we can get a false negative, if we test too late we can get a false negative,” Aguon said.
She said the ideal time frame to test a person is within five to seven days of known exposure to the infectious person.
To help contain the spread of the virus, Aguon said they implore businesses to be “less restrictive in regard to sick leave” and not have people come into work when they are symptomatic.
One of the things we want to discourage is for an employer to tell employees to come to work sick,” Kaneshiro said, noting that DPHSS has spoken to patients who say their employer is pressuring them to come to work despite their illness. “That is highly discouraged because they are just going to spread it to the work site.”
Aguon and Kaneshiro said DPHSS will work with businesses to devise a plan when an employee tests positive for COVID-19.