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CDC clears virus-exposed critical workers who lack symptoms to return to work

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Robert Redfield speaks during a news briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic with members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 3, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is changing its guidance for workers in critical industries, including food supply and health care, to say that the people exposed to the coronavirus should return to work if they don’t have symptoms of the illness.

“One of the most important things we can do is keep our critical workforce working,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said Wednesday at a White House press briefing.

The CDC’s guidance has been that workers exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus should self-quarantine for 14 days. Now, the agency says those workers should return to work as long as they have no symptoms of the disease, wear a face mask, practice social distancing and monitor their body temperature for fever.

Redfield urged those workers not to remain at work if they feel sick, and to refrain from congegrating in break rooms or crowded places.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the same briefing, said the new guidance “will hopefully make it clear that there would be an opportunity for those people playing such an incredible role in our nation’s response to be able to return to work and to be able to do so safely.”

There’s no standard, national definition of what constitutes essential work, leaving states and local governments to make those decisions.

Senate Democrats have proposed giving hazard pay of as much as $25,000 each for workers including grocery store employees, transit workers and pharmacists who are risking their lives to stay on the job amid the outbreak.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democratic lawmakers have made clear that the payments are a key priority for the next phase of federal spending to respond to the virus, but stopped short of saying they would withhold support if they are not included.

The so-called Pandemic Premium Pay of as much as $25,000 would be paid from the start of the crisis to the end of the year. In addition, the Democrats’ proposal would offer an essential worker recruitment incentive of as much as $15,000 for more medical workers.

Also covered by the fund would be federal workers including Veterans Administration nurses and doctors, postal workers delivering essentials, Border Patrol officers and Transportation Security Administration airport screeners.


© 2020 Bloomberg News

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