Step by step

What to do if someone at work has COVID-19

For employers in non-healthcare settings.

When someone in the workplace has COVID-19:

  • You need to know if anyone else was exposed (close contact)
  • The employee needs to isolate

Take the following steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at your workplace.


Find out when the exposure happened.

Talk with the employee who tested positive.

COVID-19 can spread two days before symptoms appear, or before a positive test.

  • Find out when they were last at work.
  • Find out when their symptoms began.
  • If they do not have any symptoms, find out when they tested positive.
  • Count back two days from when their symptoms began, or—if they do not have symptoms—from when they tested positive. Other employees may have been exposed from this date until the last date the COVID-19 positive employee was in the office.
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Identify close contacts

Make a list of close contacts. 

A close contact means you have been indoors with someone who has COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more, even if everyone was masked.

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Inform close contacts

Tell close contacts they were exposed.

What should close contacts do?

All close contacts should:

Unvaccinated or immunocompromised close contacts should test early so they can start treatment if they have COVID-19. Close contacts who are likely to infect another immunocompromised or unvaccinated person should follow these recommendations and consider quarantine. 

You do not need a doctor’s note to return to work after COVID-19.

Businesses or employers may also choose to ask employees with a close contact to quarantine. Employers should consult Cal/OSHA for applicable regulations for their work setting.

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Stay confidential

Do not disclose their identity. 

Do not tell anyone at the workplace who tested positive for COVID-19. Not even close contacts.

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Report outbreaks

Major outbreaks must be reported. 

Report major outbreaks (20 or more cases within a 30-day period) to Cal/OSHA. There is no need to report major outbreaks to San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH).

DPH is available for any workplace with unusual disease outbreaks. Contact the Communicable Disease team at or 415-554-2830.

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Last updated March 15, 2023