Updated August 13, 2020

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 must stay home until at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and their fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without any medicine.

  • Employees should not be required to show negative tests to return to work.
  • If an employer requires testing as a condition of employment, they must pay for that expense.
  • We ask employers and their employees to cooperate with case investigators and contact tracers. This is an important strategy for minimizing the spread.

Health Officer Recommendations on Workplace Testing for COVID-19 (191.27 KB)
Recomendaciones de la Funcionaria de Salud respecto a la prueba de COVID-19 para los empleados (149.92 KB)
Oregon Health Authority: Employee Screening Recommendations for COVID-19 (262.63 KB)

Does an employee have to tell me if they have tested positive for COVID-19?

If they work in food service, your employee is required by law to tell their supervisor they tested positive for COVID-19. If they do not work in food service, they are not required to tell them. It is up to non-food service employees whether they want to share that information with you or their coworkers.

Contact tracers take every precaution to determine an exposure without disclosing a person’s name, but may need to disclose the person's name to the workplace to identify exposed coworkers or clients. They will reach out to individuals and workplaces (when applicable) to inform them of potential exposure and provide guidance.

Remember that this illness is spreading throughout our community, and even if someone you work with becomes sick, it does not mean you will get sick.

Contact with the local health department

COVID-19 positive lab results are automatically reported to the local public health system. The public health staff will immediately interview the infected person to identify possible worksite exposures.

If an employee has been teleworking, or if the business has a single case and has maintained proper physical distancing, we may determine that there were no work-related close contacts. In that case, we will not call the employer.

If an employer receives a report of an employee with a positive COVID-19 test and has questions about how to proceed, they may call the health department at 503-988-3406.

It is important to make every effort to protect an employee’s private health information, even in smaller work environments. This can be a challenging situation. That's why we recommend routine reminders that COVID-19 is in our communities and could affect any person or community at any time.

Workplace Outbreak

If 2 or more cases are reported in their workplace, an employer should call the health department at 503-988-3406. This may indicate an outbreak that requires additional follow up. 

Workplace COVID-19 Outbreak Guide (1.3 MB)

Food service 

If a food service or food processing facility employee tests positive for COVID-19, employers are mandated by Oregon law (OAR 333-019-1000 and OAR 333-150) to: 

  • Notify the local public health department. In Multnomah County call 503-988-3406.
  • Work with public health to determine which employees had close, prolonged contact with the employee 
  • Follow all applicable laws and regulations to maintain confidentiality and protect personal health information of the employee

Will I be shut down for having a positive case among my employees?

  • In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. Communication and cooperation with public health officials is very important. The more health officials understand about your operation, the more they will be able to help you work through solutions to find the option that will be least disruptive to your business operations.

Communicating with employees

Proactive communication about what to expect if someone does test positive will help avoid rumor, stigma and anxiety. Include the following in your communication:

  • Prevention measures help people stay safe (masks, physical distancing, handwashing).
  • Reminders of any behavioral and emotional support services offered by your company.
  • Public health contact tracers will contact individuals directly if they have been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Not every instance of a positive result will warrant disclosure to an entire workplace. Public health officials will work with employers to determine the extent of information to communicate to employees. 
  • Disclosure of positive results is a balance between protecting private health information and protecting others’ health.
  • Multnomah County does not publicize outbreak information, but the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) puts out a weekly report of workplace COVID-19 outbreaks with 5 or more cases and 30 or more employees. 

More Information

OSHA Guidance on Returning to Work (PDF)
CDC: Prepare your Small Business and Employees for the Effects of COVID-19

Contact Us

Communicable Disease Services