Public Health Officer Dr. Eric Lamb answers common questions about wearing a mask.
What happens when an employee tests positive or is exposed to COVID-19?
Q: If an employee lets their employer know they’ve been contacted by the Health Department because they have been exposed to COVID-19, what does that mean for the employer?
A: If someone is contacted by the Health Department because they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, the Health Department will direct them to quarantine for a certain number of days. The number of days varies based on the date the exposure happened and the date the positive case is identified. The Health Department will provide the individual who has been exposed a letter, on Baker County Health Department letterhead, that they can share with their employer explaining the quarantine period. Call the Health Department at 541-523-8211 if you have questions about the letter, keeping in mind the Health Department is not able to release any personal health information.
Under no circumstances should an employee be allowed to return to work until their quarantine period has ended AND they are symptom-free at the end of that period.
The employer should ensure shared surfaces and areas are sanitized before other employees and/or customers return- ideally as part of a normal sanitizing program already in place.
Q: If someone close to an employee is identified as a ‘close contact’, does the employee need to quarantine too?
A: No. Someone who has been identified as a close contact will need to quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms, but may not develop COVID-19. If a household member or other close contact of an employee is quarantining for 14 days, the employee should monitor themselves for symptoms, but they do not need to quarantine too.
Q: After the quarantine period has ended, should an employee be tested before they return to work?
A: That depends on the employers’ personnel policy. If the employer does require a test, the test requires a doctor’s order, and the employer will have to be responsible for payment.
Q: If a business has an employee with a positive case, does the business need to close?
A: No. Distancing and sanitation protocols should already be in place to reduce the risk of spreading the virus among employees. Employees should continually monitor themselves for symptoms whether there is a positive case among employees or not. Policies that don’t penalize employees for staying home when they are sick are highly encouraged.
Q: An employee who is quarantined can come back to work in 14 days if they don’t develop symptoms, correct?
A: Not necessarily. If someone is a close contact of a positive case, the quarantine period is 14 days from their last exposure. If a close contact of the employee, such as a household member, continues to show symptoms of being ill, then the employee is potentially still being exposed through the duration of the household member’s illness if the employee can’t isolate from them. So their 14 day quarantine period will end after the last exposure, which in the case of household members, may be 14 days after the person with the positive case is considered recovered.
Q: How can an employer deal with the potential for extended leave?
A: These circumstances are hard to grapple with. Employers are encouraged to think through whether updates to their personnel policies, including sick leave, may be helpful during this time. Consultation with business associations or a labor attorney may provide helpful resources.
Q: What should an employer do if their employee becomes sick while at work?
A: Employees who appear to have symptoms upon arriving at work, or who develop symptoms during their shift, should immediately be separated from other employees and customers. The employee should be sent home. Ensure that you have a procedure in place for transporting a sick employee. The employee may need to be taken home or to a medical facility.
What happens when someone you know tests positive for COVID-19?
Q: If I’m identified as a ‘close contact’ of someone who tests positive for COVID-19, should I immediately get tested?
A: No, testing is not recommended unless you have symptoms. The virus can take anywhere from 2-14 days to incubate (to grow) in your body. If you test too soon the test may return a negative result, but the virus is still growing in your body and is not in large enough quantity yet to show up on a test.
Q: How is ‘close contact’ defined?
A: A ‘close contact’ is anyone who has been within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes of someone who tests positive. The Health Department determines who is a close contact by interviewing the individual who tests positive. Contact tracing to identify close contacts goes back 2 days before the onset of symptoms.
Q: If someone close to me is identified as a ‘close contact’, do I need to quarantine for 14 days too?
A: No. Someone who has been identified as a close contact will need to quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms, but may not develop COVID-19. If a household member or other close contact of yours is quarantining for 14 days, you should monitor yourself for symptoms, but you do not need to quarantine yourself.
Q: What does it mean to quarantine?
A: When someone is asked to quarantine, that means they are asked to have no interaction with people outside of their house and carefully limit interactions with others inside their household. During the quarantine period, someone who is asked to quarantine is instructed not to go to the grocery store, hair salon or other public places, and not to have people over to their house. You can go for walks, go for a drive in your car, or hike by yourself, but not with others.
Q: How does the Health Department notify someone who is a ‘close contact’? How do they get my contact information?
A: The Health Department notifies close contacts through a phone call. Contact information is obtained through interviews with a confirmed case. Be assured that all the information provided by a confirmed case or close contact is kept private and is protected by law.
Q: If I have COVID-19, who is that going to be reported to? Why won’t the Health Department tell me who it is I’ve been exposed to?
A: Personal health information is strictly protected by federal and state laws, and the local Health Department legally can’t and won’t disclose any personally identifiable information about the person who has tested positive or their contacts. Positive cases are reported through the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and OHA lists the number of positive cases in the county by zip code. If five or more positive cases are in a workplace setting that has 50 or more employees, OHA will list that workplace as having an outbreak as long as that information will not identify an individual or a report source.
Q: What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?
A: Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms.
Don’t see what you’re looking for? The Oregon Health Authority also provides information to commonly asked questions on the OHA webpage.
Face coverings will be required statewide in indoor public spaces beginning Wednesday, July 1st. The guidance applies to businesses and members of the public visiting indoor public spaces. If you own or manage a local business or other organization and need help complying with the mask requirement, please contact the Baker County Business Group, 541-523-2015.
The press release from Governor Brown’s office can be read here.
State of Oregon reopening guidelines can be found on the Business Information page.
The Baker County Commissioners submitted a plan to Governor Brown’s office on April 24 outlining a phased approach to reopening businesses, organizations and events in Baker County that are currently closed by the Governor’s Stay Home, Save Lives Executive Order. The plan was developed through coordination between the Baker County Commissioners, Baker County Health Department, St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City, and the County Public Health Officer. The plan proposed three phases for reopening, and included measures that can be put in place to reduce the risk of transmitting disease. The plan was approved by the Governor’s office on May 14, 2020.
Approved Phase 2 Reopening Plan – May 29, 2020
Approved Baker County Reopening Plan – May 14, 2020
The health and safety of our community is our top focus. This page is to share information to help our community prepare and support each other. The page is currently under construction, and new or updated information will be added as it comes available.
The Coronavirus is a common virus. COVID-19 is a new strain, and is impacting communities across the globe.
Government, healthcare, education, public services, and our business community are sharing information to help our community prepare. Each sector may respond to COVID-19 differently, but by openly sharing information, we collectively prepare a strong, thorough response for serving the public as a whole.
This information keeps you aware of what work is being down and how we are responding as a community. This page will be updated as the information becomes available.
Baker County has been closely tracking the evolving situation surrounding COVID-19. County officials are working closely with partners at the state and federal levels, as well as our partners here in Baker City and the surrounding areas, to monitor and respond to the 2019 novel Coronavirus. We continue to monitor the latest information from the Baker County Health Department, Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and will remain engaged with healthcare providers, schools, businesses and workers to mitigate the impact of the virus. On March 16, 2020 the Baker County Commissioners established an Emergency Operations Center to respond to the developing situation.
We all have a responsibility to ourselves, our families and our community to stop the spread of COVID-19.
We strongly urge our residents to:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time.
- Stay home whenever possible
- Only leave your home for essential services and needs (groceries, medical, work)
- Purchase reasonable amounts of basic products and leave enough for others
- Wear face coverings in indoor public spaces
Baker County’s top priority is the health, safety and welfare of our community.
Please watch this video on why it’s important to ‘flatten the curve’ by reducing the spread of COVID-19:
Baker County Information:
August 2020 Archives:
Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett shares a message to the community about the local COVID-19 response.
April 2020 Archives:
Revised Baker County Reopening Plan – May 7, 2020
BAKER COUNTY HOSTING TOWN HALL MEETING ON THE REOPENING BAKER COUNTY PLAN, MAY 6th, 5:30-7:00 PM
Baker County will discuss the Reopening Baker County Plan submitted to the Governor’s office on April 24. A panel that includes Commissioner Mark Bennett, COVID-19 Business Operations and Recovery Lead Shawn Berry, Baker City Manager Fred Warner and Health Department Director Nancy Staten, will discuss the Reopening Plan and answer questions from the community.
Instructions for joining this meeting by phone or computer can be found here.
March 2020 Archives:
BAKER COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TOWN HALL MEETING ON COVID-19 APRIL 16, 6:00-7:30 PM
To call in: Dial 1-408-418-9388, enter meeting ID 964 049 937 To join using a computer, visit: https://www.bakercounty.org/webexmeetings.html. To ask a question before the meeting, please email: email@example.com.