By Erica Houskeeper on August 17, 2020
Contact tracing is an integral part of the public health response to COVID-19, and it’s an important tool for reopening the economy. Contact tracing is the process of identifying, notifying, and monitoring anyone who came in close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were infectious.
As a small business owner, contact tracing can help you protect your workers and customers from the virus. It can also prevent your business from getting shut down if an employee tests positive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that COVID-19 exposure risk begins when someone is within 6 feet of the infected person for 15 minutes or more. The CDC points out that infected people can spread the virus 48 hours before the onset of symptoms.
Contact tracing involves reaching out to people exposed to a case of COVID-19 and asking them to stay away from other people until a full incubation period (14 days) has passed. By staying home for 14 days, quarantined close contacts cannot spread the virus to others if they go on to have the disease.
During COVID-19, contact tracing is a tool for businesses to do the following:
- Limit outbreaks at your business
- Keep your employees and customers safe
- Stay compliant with the law
- Protect your business against potential liability
- Prevent your business from being shut down
Developing a Contract Tracing System at Your Business
While the majority of contact tracing work is done by health authorities, business owners can assist by tracking employees’ activities and keeping a customer log of people who have visited your business.
Appointment-based businesses, such as hair salons or car repair shops, will have an easier time keeping customer logs. But maintaining a log can be more challenging for restaurants, retail shops, or bars.
Currently, there are no federal contact tracing requirements or official guidelines for businesses in the United States. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, you can take steps to set up an effective contact tracing system, including creating a policy, ensuring confidentiality, working with local and government health agencies, and using apps to assist with contract tracing efforts. It’s also important to check your local city, county, and state laws, which may have individual COVID-19-related policies for businesses.
Have a Plan
Describe the company's contact-tracing process as part of a policy for responding to a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, and make the policy available to all employees, notifying them that if they contract COVID-19, they will be asked to provide a list of contacts at work. Set up a process to allow for quick identification of contacts, such as meeting logs. Create a list of standard questions or talking points to use in interviews to learn the exposed person's movements and provide guidance for seeking medical help.
Employers are within their rights to ask employees if they have symptoms or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, they should not name an infected employee to others at the workplace beyond those conducting the investigation.
Work with Local and State Health Agencies
As a business owner, you might first hear about an employee’s COVID-19 case from a public health official. In that case, your business can cooperate by providing schedules, contact information, and even a walk-through of your store, office, or restaurant. If you learn about an employee's illness first, you should contact the local or state health department, and health departments may also be able to assist you in conducting worksite tracing.
Consider Customer Logs
Contract tracing is not a widespread requirement in the United States. The Los Angeles County Restaurant Protocols require restaurants to collect customer contact information, either at the time of reservation booking or on-site to allow for contact tracing if required.
Meanwhile, in Ontario, Canada, bars, restaurants, and boat operators will be required to keep client logs for 30 days and to disclose the client logs to the medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on request, which will support case and contact tracing.
Contract Tracing Apps
Hundreds of apps have been developed to assist in contact-tracing efforts and are being marketed to public health agencies and employers. COVID-19 contact tracing apps are being developed to use digital technologies such as Bluetooth, GPS, and QR codes to track individuals’ movements within the community, including visits to businesses. As of yet, there isn’t any leading contact tracing app for business use that’s been widely adopted in the United States.
Another tool that can help is Payanywhere’s Homebase tool, which can assist employers and managers to keep track of scheduling—and have information at their fingertips for contract tracing.
The tool allows you to:
- Create work schedules in minutes using our schedule template.
- Immediately share it so that your team is always up to date.
- Forecast your labor costs and build a smarter work schedule
- Homebase automatically reminds employees of upcoming shifts and allows you to manage shifts trades and covers on the fly
- Managers can easily track employee availability, time-off requests, and approvals in the Homebase work schedule app
Homebase is a free employee scheduling app built for busy teams. Employees can always get their up-to-date work schedule in the free mobile app and via text and email. Learn more by contacting Sekure today.