By The Star Staff
Given the sharp increase in COVID-19 infections in Puerto Rico, the Department of Health (DS) on Sunday established the Protocol for the Management of Cases in the Work Environment to prevent and reduce virus transmission in the workplace.
“Both employers and employees must be in a safe place to avoid transmission of the virus,” Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said in a written statement. “We are constantly monitoring the evolution of the coronavirus so that the population can protect themselves and their own. The purpose of the protocol is to establish specific guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The protocol establishes that if a case of COVID-19 arises in the workplace, the company must notify the DS to initiate an investigation of cases and contact tracing. The employee with a positive result must remain at home and undergo an isolation process for 10 days if they are vaccinated and 14 days if they do not have vaccination or while they have symptoms. Those employees who have had direct contact with the positive case must remain in quarantine for seven days if they are fully vaccinated; if they are not vaccinated they must remain in quarantine for 10 days. On the fifth day, an antigen or molecular test should be performed.
Meanwhile, an employee who is in good health, but lives with a family member with a positive result for COVID-19, must also remain in quarantine. A viral test (antigen or molecular) should also be performed on the fifth day. If the result was negative and the employee does not present symptoms associated with COVID-19, he or she can begin his or her face-to-face work on the eighth day after the exposure.
“It is important that employers encourage employees to remain in their homes if they present symptoms associated with the coronavirus and in the same way those employees with symptoms must report them in order to avoid the spread,” Mellado López added, insisting that “people who have a positive result should not be tested again since the virus can remain in the system for a longer period; the important thing is that people are more contagious during the first 10 days after their positive viral test or from the moment in which they present symptoms.”
“So in order to return to work, neither a negative test nor a medical certificate is necessary,” he added. “It is enough to comply with the isolation.”
The island’s main epidemiology officer, Dr. Melissa Marzán, added that both employees and employers must follow the measures to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19: booster dose vaccination, use of a mask, cleaning and disinfection of facilities, hand hygiene and improving ventilation of closed spaces.
“We are alert and reestablishing measures that help to reduce infections” she said. “The implementation of the quarantine and isolation orders of the Department of Health are critical to achieve that goal.”