The holidays are approaching and perhaps some employees will be traveling internationally for the holidays. What is an employer to do when an employee has traveled outside of the United States? Does the employee need to quarantine? The answer is generally yes, but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the CDC are not all that direct in guiding employers.
The PA Department of Health is silent on international travel. The website merely instructs that individuals should check with the travel advisories and directs us to the CDC.
…so let’s go to the CDC…
The CDC does not indicate that all international travel requires a 14 day quarantine. However, it does say that all travelers who have traveled internationally, “can go back to work but should take precautions. Some travelers may have higher risk of exposure and should stay home for 14 days.” Notice, the CDC does not flat out require the 14 day quarantine.
The CDC states that employees who return home from travel (international or domestic) and who participated in higher risk activities, should take precautions to protect others for 14 days after they return from traveling. The precautions are as follows:
- Stay home as much as possible
- Avoid being around people
- Consider getting COVID tested
NOTE: The CDC directs individuals to, “stay home as much as possible.” It does not require a 14 day quarantine. These guidelines are super general.
Now, the CDC includes that the following are “Higher Risk Activities:”
- Being in an area that is experiencing high levels of COVID-19, including destinations with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. These destinations can be found here. As you will see, essentially the entire world is a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. When an individual travels to one of these places, they are instructed to stay home “as much as possible” upon return for 14 days.
- Attending a mass gathering
- Being in crowds (restaurants, bars, airports, bus and train stations, or movie theaters)
- Traveling on a cruise ship or river boat.
As you can see, basically if someone traveled overseas, they probably went to an airport which is deemed a high risk activity, which requires them to stay home for 14 days.
WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO?
It would be a good practice for employers to have their employees complete a travel questionnaire upon their return to the United States. An employee questionnaire for international travel would be something to the effect of:
- Have you traveled internationally?
- (If yes), where:
- If the country is on the Level 3 Health Notice, then that person is not permitted to return to work, as they are to “stay home as much as possible” for 14 days. The questionnaire stops there.
- If the country is not on a Level 3 Health Notice, then the following inquiry would take place:
- Did you attend a mass gathering?
- Did you attend a restaurant, bar, airport, bus, train station or movie theater?
- Did you travel on a cruise ship or river boat?
- If the answer is yes to any of these, then that person should stay home for 14 days.
Employers should document this questionnaire, and maintain it on file. Prudent Human Resources Departments should keep up to speed on the various travel restrictions both domestic and international.
I know that these questions seem weird and a bit off base, but they are directly from the CDC, and that is the language that we need to stick when crafting our methods.
Let me know if you want us to tweak the Employee and Patient Screening to include the International Travel Questions.
Feel free to call me with any questions!
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