The V.I. Health Department is urging adherence to established COVID-19 protocols in light of the recent surge in cases, coupled with the rapidly increasing community transmission, according to a statement from Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion.
As a result, health officials released the following workplace guidance, noting that “every business and agency should operate as though employees and clients are potential carriers of the COVID-19 virus.”
According to the statement employees should self-monitor for symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, wear masks properly and consistently unless alone in a room/office, maintain physical distancing, wash or sanitize hands frequently, ensure frequent, high-level environmental cleaning and practice cough and sneezing hygiene. Employees also should not congregate in break rooms where eating commonly occurs.
Individuals should not go into work if they are sick or if they have been identified as a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19, but should remain in quarantine until receipt of a negative test result. If individuals test positive for the virus and have symptoms, they are to quarantine.
If a fully vaccinated individual is exposed to someone with COVID-19, the person may return to work after quarantining for five days and get tested if symptoms develop. If symptoms do not develop the person should return to work, and wear a mask.
If an individual who is not fully vaccinated has been exposed to someone with the virus that person should quarantine for 10 days and test on day seven of exposure to shorten quarantine time if negative.
If an individual becomes ill at work and has symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, the person is to leave work and call the Epidemiology Hotline 340-712-6299 on St. Croix and 340-776-1519 on St. Thomas, or their provider to arrange to be tested.
Individuals must quarantine while awaiting results. Even if the test results are negative for COVID-19, individuals should remain quarantined until symptoms are resolved.
If an individual tests positive but does not have any symptoms, the person should quarantine for five days. If the individual remains without symptoms, that person can return to public after five days, but must continue to wear a mask.
All offices are expected to practice, at a minimum, daily or more frequent environmental cleaning to prevent the presence of the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have approved disinfecting agents available for reference that are accessible on their respective websites.
Offices or sections of buildings where persons who tested positive for COVID-19 have been identified are to be closed, cleaned and disinfected after waiting at least four hours.
If an employee is found to be positive within the agency, the entire office should not be closed automatically nor should the entire staff automatically be sent home.
Employees can return to work once the office has been properly cleaned and disinfected.
Vaccinated individuals can return to work immediately upon return. There will be a mandatory four-day quarantine for all unvaccinated individuals upon return and these travelers must get tested for COVID-19 on the fourth day. These test results must be negative before they can return to work.
All government agencies can reach out to their assigned Health representative with questions as they arise. Private businesses can also reach out to the Health Department for consultation on care of their staff and environment during this time.