COVID-19: Businesses, Employers, and Workers

Information for businesses, employers, and workers

For businesses and employers

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has released reopening guidance for all businesses to follow as well as industry-specific advice. Post-vaccination considerations for businesses and employers is also available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Answers to questions frequently asked by employers are provided below.

How can my business hold an employer-based vaccination clinic and encourage vaccination among employees?

Vaccination is one of the best ways you can protect your business, employees, and customers from COVID-19 and move operations back to normal. Employers play a critical role in increasing protection among Wisconsin’s workforce and their families, and bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. You are in a unique position to:

  • Facilitate vaccination for employees and their families.
  • Provide employees information about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
  • Establish policies and practices that support workers to get vaccinated.
Hold an employer-based clinic

Employer-based clinics provide direct vaccination access for employees and their families. Employer-based clinics can be held on-site at the workplace, or off-site during a special block of time at a nearby vaccine provider location. For additional guidance on deciding which option is right for you, review the guidance on Wisconsin Employer-Based COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics. Any sized business or organization can request a vaccination clinic.

How to request an employer-based clinic: 

  • Contact your local or tribal health department to see if they can hold a clinic or help connect you to a local vaccinator. Your local or tribal health department may refer you to local health care providers or pharmacies.
  • If you are unable to identify a vaccine provider to partner with, fill out the employer-based clinic request survey, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) will help you identify a vaccine provider.
  • If possible, inform your local or tribal health department of your employer-based vaccination plans once finalized.
  • Create clear expectations between the employer and vaccinator regarding roles and responsibilities. Guidance is available in Wisconsin Employer-Based COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics, P-02943 (also available in Spanish). 
Encourage vaccination among your employees

Vaccine education is key to promoting vaccination and addressing misinformation.

  • Provide information and resources. Hang posters, email a letter, request a presentation from DHS, or get creative with other methods.
  • Implement policies and programs that support getting vaccinated (for example, allowing paid sick leave, offering a modest incentive), and clearly communicate those programs to your workforce. Under the American Rescue Plan employers are entitled to tax credits for providing paid leave to employees who take time off related to COVID-19 vaccinations. 
  • Create a culture where getting the COVID-19 vaccine is part of being healthy.

Use the suggested resources, policies, and practices in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC) Wisconsin Vaccine Guidance for All Businesses to help your employees gain confidence in getting the vaccine.

How can I ensure my business is maintaining a safe building environment for workers? 

Every business and organization should have a plan to prevent COVID-19 by protecting employees, educating customers, and keeping your building or environment safe and sanitary. 

Policies and programs
  • Analyze sick leave policies and consider modifying them to make sure ill workers are not in the workplace. Make sure employees are aware of and understand these policies.
  • Analyze any incentive programs and consider modifying them, if warranted, so that employees are not penalized for taking sick leave.
  • Analyze additional flexibilities, which might include giving advances on future sick leave and allowing employees to donate sick leave to each other.

Clean your business or organization's physical location before opening to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect your employees and customers from other diseases. CDC recommends cleaning with products containing soap or detergent reduces germs on surfaces by removing contaminants and may also weaken or damage some of the virus particles, which decreases risk of infection from surfaces. Routine daily cleaning is sufficient to remove virus that may be on surfaces and help maintain a healthy facility.

Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Clean your business or organization's physical location before opening to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect your employees and customers from other diseases. CDC recommends cleaning with products containing soap or detergent reduces germs on surfaces by removing contaminants and may also weaken or damage some of the virus particles, which decreases risk of infection from surfaces. Routine daily cleaning is sufficient to remove virus that may be on surfaces and help maintain a healthy facility.
  • Minimize exposure by involving as few employees in this process as possible.
  • Give special attention to restrooms, food service areas, phones, computers, other electronics, tools, and workstations. If there has been a sick person or someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in your facility within the last 24 hours, you should clean and disinfect the space.
  • DHS has created a one-page guidance sheet on how to clean, sanitize and disinfect surfaces after someone with COVID-19 was present.
  • Ensure cleaning staff are trained on proper use of cleaning (and disinfecting, if applicable) products. Always wear gloves and ensure adequate ventilation when using cleaning products.
  • See CDC for more details on tips how to creating a cleaning and disinfection plan for your facility, as well as detailed guidance for different types of surfaces and products.
Ventilation

The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread between people indoors, especially in poorly ventilated areas with limited air exchange. Effective ventilation systems can help reduce viral particle concentrations and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in your facility. Reoccupying a building during the COVID-19 pandemic should not, in most cases, require new building ventilation systems. However, ventilation system upgrades or improvements can increase the delivery of clean air and dilute potential contaminants. Consult experienced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals when considering changes to HVAC systems and equipment. Here are some tips for ensuring your facility is properly ventilated.

I'm worried about Legionella growth in my building's stagnant water system. How can I ensure my buildings water system is safe? 

Stagnant or standing water in a plumbing system can increase the risk for growth and spread of Legionella and other biofilm-associated bacteria. Ensure that your water system is safe to use after a prolonged shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water by following the CDC's eight steps to minimize Legionella risk before your business or building reopens:

  • Develop and follow a comprehensive water management program (WMP) for your water system and all devices that use water.
  • Ensure your water heater is properly maintained and the temperature is correctly set. Review plumbing code, if applicable.
  • Flush your water system following your water management plan.
  • Clean and disinfect all decorative water features, such as fountains.
  • Ensure hot tubs/spas are safe for use.
  • Ensure cooling towers are clean and well-maintained.
  • Ensure safety equipment including fire sprinkler systems, eye wash stations, and safety showers are clean and well-maintained.
  • Maintain your water system.

The CDC's webpage on Guidance for Reopening Buildings after Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation elaborates on these eight steps to minimize Legionella risk.

Protecting workers

Personnel flushing, cleaning, and maintaining your water system are at a higher risk of exposure to Legionella and other biofilm-associated bacteria. Properly protect personnel from aerosols and follow personal protective equipment guidelines. An N95 mask may be appropriate in enclosed spaces where aerosol generation is likely. Review leave and incentive policies in case personnel become ill.

Other resources

When can a worker without symptoms who was a close contact of someone with COVID-19 return to work?

In general, unvaccinated workers who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of their last known exposure. In some cases, it may be acceptable to shorten the quarantine period to seven or 10 days. See DHS’s webpage on COVID-19 close contacts for the most up-to-date quarantine recommendations and DHS’s HAN #23: Options for Reducing the Duration of Quarantine for Individuals Exposed to COVID-19 for additional details.

If you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and were exposed to someone with COVID-19, you may not have to quarantine as long as you have not had any symptoms of COVID-19 since your last exposure.

Limited exemption from quarantine: DHS supports local public health officials offering alternative quarantine arrangements to employers on a case-by-base basis if the recommended home-quarantine for unvaccinated workers would negatively impact public health and safety. In these limited scenarios, DHS recommends that employers work with local public health officials to create a plan for monitoring employees for symptoms regularly, disinfecting work areas, masking employees, and modifying operations to reduce contact between employees.

When can a recovering COVID-19 patient return to work? 

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms should stay home from work until:

  • At least 24 hours after they are free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms have improved and;
  • At least 10 days after the date they first had symptoms. See our flyer for details.
Resources

What should I do if my business employs seasonal workers? 

COVID-19 can spread easily when many people are in close proximity, including the places where we live and work. CDC has specific guidance for agricultural workers and employers.

Planning ahead

Businesses can prepare ahead for having seasonal workers on-site.

Connecting with local and tribal health departments

  • Work with your local or tribal health department to identify someone who can act as your primary contact for COVID-19 concerns.
  • Whenever possible, be aware of local outbreaks.
  • Discuss and establish COVID-19 reporting procedures with your local or tribal health department.
  • Ask your local or tribal health department about additional effective methods to prepare for your specific situation.

Identifying local health care providers and COVID-19 testing resources

  • Create a list of health care facilities and health care providers located near seasonal worker housing and workplaces. The following resources can help you find free and low-cost clinics in your community:
  • Consider the language needs of your workers. It is important to find out what languages providers speak and/or what translation and interpretation services are available for people who do not speak English as their primary language.
  • Find out if the local clinic or another facility has COVID-19 vaccination and testing and how employees can access those resources.
    • Will they test people who are not current patients?
    • What type of documentation may be required at the appointment?
    • What are the requirements for accessing financial support programs offered through the facility?
    • What other options are available?
  • A frequently updated map of community testing sites is available.
  • Provide transportation to or make testing available on-site for workers with symptoms. Ensure that workers are informed ahead of time and understand what is happening, what to expect, why testing is happening, and make sure they consent to being tested. Tell workers what information they will be asked to share and the processes in place to keep that information private.

Reviewing and implementing workplace policies

  • Offer health insurance to your employees, provide complete information, and explain the costs and benefits to help them decide whether to enroll.
  • Provide your employees with information on BadgerCare Plus and offer to assist anyone who is interested in applying. Also provide your employees with information on accessing emergency services through Wisconsin Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus.
  • Assess leave policies for quarantined and isolated workers and workers caring for sick family members. Employers who do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees may want to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies. Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies. These policies can help to ensure workers are able to stay home when they or a family member is ill. Note that many employers may be subject to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires certain employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees with COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Do not require employees to provide a COVID-19 test result or a health care provider’s note to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work.
  • Consider offering day care assistance and flexibility, particularly when schools are closed. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide paid leave when parents cannot work due to school closures or day care being unavailable due to COVID-19. See the US Department of Labor, "Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers" for more information.
  • Create a plan for how to care for workers, especially if many workers become sick at the same time. Also develop workplace contingency plans for periods of reduced labor. Identify locations where you can house workers with symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If you provide housing for seasonal workers, review and use the CDC’s COVID-19 Guidance for Shared or Congregate Housing (that is, living in a group setting).
  • Identify spaces where sick workers can isolate. This could be in separate rooms within a housing unit or a separate building dedicated to sick workers. If neither option is feasible, work with your local or tribal health department to ask about local resources and isolation sites.
Preventing COVID-19

Employers can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by ensuring COVID-19 vaccines are available to workers, making changes to workplaces, living spaces, and transportation; providing adequate protective gear and disinfecting supplies; and promoting healthy habits among employees.

COVID-19 vaccination for workers

Vaccination is one of the best ways you can protect your business and workers from COVID-19. To ensure your seasonal workers have access to vaccination, consider hosting an employer-based clinic or partnering with local vaccinators and ensuring that employees are granted time off to get receive and recover from the vaccine.

Use educational materials and supportive policies to encourage all workers get vaccinated. See the frequently asked question about encouraging vaccination in the workplace on this page for links and details.

Making general workplace changes

The guidance below applies even if the majority of your workers are vaccinated. As the pandemic changes, recommendations will be revised to address those changes.

  • Wherever possible, increase the physical space between employees, and between employees and customers. Examples include opening a drive-through or curbside service and marking floors to indicate spacing at least six feet apart. Where distancing is not possible, erect partitions or dividers between employees.
  • Whenever possible, migrant workers engaged in hand labor must be at least six feet from any other person while working in the fields.
  • If necessary, slow down production lines or other activities so workers can stay six feet away from each other.
  • Limit personal contact and crowding or close grouping within work sites (and housing facilities if applicable).
  • Limit the number of people using common facilities at any one time.
  • Consider assigning healthy workers into cohorts that include the same workers each day. This can increase the effectiveness of altering normal shift schedules by making sure that groups of workers are always assigned to the same shifts with the same coworkers. Ideally, the same groups of coworkers would also share living quarters and shared transportation. This may reduce the spread of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace by minimizing the number of different individuals who come into close contact with each other over the course of a week, and may also reduce the number of workers quarantined due to exposure to the virus.
  • Reduce meetings and group gatherings to essential communication only and limit the number of such meetings. If group meetings must occur, hold them outside or in a space where people can observe physical distancing of at least six feet.
  • Consider screening employees prior to being transported to or entering the workplace. Screening can include measuring the employee's temperature (fever is 100.4 °F [38 °C]) or specifically asking if they have experienced a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. Note that checking symptoms is not a perfect way to know whether or not someone has COVID-19.

Making changes to housing for seasonal workers (if applicable)

  • Refer to the CDC’s COVID-19 Guidance for Shared or Congregate Housing (that is, living in a group setting).
  • Review emergency rules from the Department of Workforce Development.
  • Visibly post DHS’s Tips for Staying Safe in Group Living Facilities (available in English, Hindi, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish).
  • Encourage employees to follow physical distancing practices in common areas. Use signs and other visual cues to remind people to remain six feet apart from one another.
  • Migrant camp operators must make reasonable efforts to make sanitized cloth face coverings available for workers in living areas.
  • Provide handwashing stations and hand sanitizer to workers in cooking and eating facilities and within sleeping facilities.
  • Separate beds by at least six feet to comply with physical distancing requirements, and add a physical barrier between beds, such as a curtain.
  • In dormitory or barracks style housing, workers should also sleep head to toe, if possible. This is especially important when beds cannot reasonably be six feet apart.
  • Living quarters must be cleaned or disinfected daily. The CDC has information on cleaning and disinfecting living spaces, with both everyday steps and extra steps when someone is sick.
  • Increase the number of meal shifts to decrease the number of people eating in the same space at one time.
  • Clean or disinfect the dining space after each meal shift.
  • Be diligent in following hygiene and food safety rules, including keeping food covered, not sharing utensils or containers, washing hands before eating and handling shared objects, and cleaning kitchen areas between each use.
  • Immediately separate and isolate any individual with symptoms of COVID-19.

Making changes to transporting workers

  • To limit exposure, group (or cohort) workers in the same crews and/or those sharing living quarters together when transporting.
  • Ensure that workers engage in physical distancing on all transportation between work and residences, and other transportation provided by the employer to allow workers to obtain necessary supplies and services. Provide as much space between riders as possible. Workers must sit at least six feet apart. If the employer is unable to meet the six-foot distancing requirement on transportation, they must provide and require all vehicle occupants to wear face masks or sanitized cloth face coverings during transport.
  • Make hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol available in all transport vehicles and encourage its use before entering the vehicle.
  • Increase the number of vehicles and the frequency of trips to limit the number of people in a vehicle, even if this requires additional transport or reduces productivity.
  • Avoid using the recirculated air option for the car’s ventilation during passenger transport; use the car’s vents to bring in fresh outside air and/or lower the vehicle windows.
  • Instruct riders to follow coughing and sneezing etiquette when in the vehicle.
  • Clean and disinfect transportation vehicles in accordance with CDC guidelines for non-emergency transport vehicles before and after each trip, or daily at a minimum. Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces in vehicles at least once per day.

Providing adequate equipment and supplies

  • Provide supplies free of charge at workplaces and/or housing sites, including soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol, tissues, and waste baskets, and face masks or cloth face coverings. Have extra supplies on hand.
  • Provide access to all cleaning and disinfecting supplies at the work site, all common areas, dormitory or sleeping quarters, and food preparation and eating areas.
  • Provide access to cleaning supplies free of charge and support workers in maintaining a clean environment through training, signage, and providing increased time to clean and disinfect personal living spaces and shared common housing spaces.
  • Provide, free of charge, disinfectants that are effective against coronaviruses to sanitize counters, bathrooms, and other areas.

Cleaning and disinfecting

  • Train workers on the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. The CDC has information on Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes.
  • Train workers to safely use chemical disinfectants and provide the necessary protective equipment.
  • Increase the frequency of your routine cleaning and disinfection program.
  • Emphasize the importance of cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces, including bathrooms, water coolers, faucet handles, door knobs, light switches, countertops, equipment, and phones.
  • Appropriate disinfectants for hard, nonporous surfaces include:

Promoting healthy practices

In addition to encouraging employees to keep at least six feet apart from people they don’t live with, the following practices can help limit the spread of COVID-19.

  • Visibly post signs in workplaces and housing sites in multiple languages to raise awareness of COVID-19 symptoms and to encourage physical distancing, handwashing, and wearing cloth face coverings.
  • Make sure the signs use plain language and imagery to convey their messages. Provide signs in English, Spanish, and other languages your employees primarily speak.
  • Promote good cough etiquette. Individuals should fully cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or their elbow when they cough or sneeze, followed immediately by throwing away the tissue and washing or sanitizing their hands.
  • Promote the use of and provide cloth face coverings in all settings where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
    • While wearing cloth face coverings is a public health measure intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities, it may not be practical for workers to wear a single cloth face covering for the full duration of a work shift (eight or more hours) in agricultural operations if they become wet, soiled, or otherwise visibly contaminated during the work shift. If cloth face coverings are worn in these operations, employers should provide readily available clean cloth face coverings (or disposable face mask options) for workers to use when the coverings become wet, soiled, or otherwise visibly contaminated.
    • Since cloth face coverings may be difficult to wear for extended periods of time, especially in hot, humid environments, require touching of the face and repositioning of the coverings, and may require frequent removal and replacement for water or nourishment breaks, physical distancing will be very important when use of cloth face coverings is not feasible.
  • Encourage employees to wash and/or sanitize their hands multiple times daily, including before and after work, breaks, eating, and when using toilet facilities.
    • Follow CDC guidelines for personal hygiene, including using an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol or washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Have soap, potable water, and single-use disposable towels available at work sites and throughout housing facilities. If soap and water are not available, provide hand sanitizer.
  • Employees should avoid sharing personal items with coworkers (food, dishes, cups, gloves) or engaging in activities such as playing cards.
Limiting the spread of COVID-19

Employers can take steps to limit the spread of the virus in their workplaces and housing for seasonal workers.

Educating employees

  • Educate employees about the virus, including how it spreads and steps to take to limit risk. The CDC has posters in nearly 30 languages explaining What You Should Know About COVID-19 to Protect Yourself and Others. Additional information and videos are available from Family Health La Clinica.
  • Educate employees about the most common COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Make sure employees know which symptoms require emergency medical care:
      • Trouble breathing
      • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
      • New confusion
      • Inability to wake or stay awake
      • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
    • Have a plan in place to call 911 or to call ahead to the local emergency facility if anyone experiences life-threatening symptoms. Be sure the operator knows you are calling about someone who might have COVID-19 and inform them if the individual needs an interpreter. Have a plan to transport individuals with one of these symptoms to receive emergency medical care.
  • Post signs about COVID-19 symptoms around workspaces and living quarters. Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019 by the CDC is available in nearly 30 languages. Put up signs in all of the languages commonly spoken by your employees.
  • Inform employees about the CDC's online self-checker and the DHS online screening tool for COVID-19. Both online screening tools can help individuals who think they may have COVID-19 decide what to do next. If needed, provide employees the opportunity to use a work computer and offer to provide them a translator.
  • Encourage workers to report when they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Workers are unlikely to report symptoms if they think they will be disciplined, have their hours or pay cut, or be fired. Ensure that workers report potential illness and not be penalized for attendance.
    • Do not terminate employment or send seasonal workers who are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19 back to their primary place of residence.

Responding when an employee is symptomatic or sick

  • Do not allow employees who have symptoms to work.
  • If an employee comes to work with symptoms or develops symptoms while at work:
    • Give them a face mask or cloth face covering to wear and separate them from others.
    • Notify the on-call emergency contact person to help the sick worker.
    • Make sure anyone helping or caring for the sick employee is also wearing a face mask or cloth face covering.
    • Notify the employee’s supervisor, who should then inform management.
    • Follow the established plan to notify the local or tribal health department.
    • Cooperate fully with any state or local or tribal health department contact tracing efforts.
  • Arrange for sick workers to see or speak with a medical provider. Communicate with the medical provider in advance of any worker arriving to a medical facility so health care workers can take appropriate precautionary measures. Inform them if the employee will need an interpreter.
  • Make sure workers who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are transported to their residences separately from other workers who are not exhibiting symptoms.
  • If possible, workers with symptoms of COVID-19 should take a private vehicle to get to medical appointments. If they do not have their own vehicle or are too ill to drive, help with transportation.
    • The use of a larger vehicle is recommended to allow greater physical distance between occupants.
    • Have the patient sit as far away as possible from the driver.
    • Ensure the patient and driver each wear a face mask, if available, or a cloth face covering. The driver may additionally wear a face shield or goggles.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces the sick worker came in contact with.
  • Disclose to employees when a worker tests positive for COVID-19. Employers cannot name the positive employee but should alert all workers to take precautionary measures.
  • Consider other people who were in close contact with the sick or COVID-19 positive worker at the workplace or housing facility (including sharing a bathroom) to have been exposed. These exposed workers should be separated from non-exposed workers for 14 days (for example, sleep in a separate room, work in a separate area).
    • Exposed workers should quarantine and get tested. While a 14-day quarantine remains the safest option for those exposed to COVID-19, there is additional guidance to shorten quarantine further. For more information, visit our COVID-19: Close Contacts webpage.
    • If any employee develops symptoms of COVID-19, follow your established procedure for isolation and care.

Helping employees recover while limiting the spread of COVID-19

  • Arranging for your employees to remain isolated while sick or quarantined after being exposed to a sick person will lead to a safer and more productive workforce.
  • Talk with the employee and make sure they understand the purpose of isolation, that while they recuperate, they will be isolated and fed and cared for, and they will be able to come back to work once they are well and are cleared by a medical professional or the local or tribal health department.
  • Develop a plan for contacting the employee's family and identify a method to stay in contact.
  • Note that local or state contact tracing teams will determine who should be considered contacts for the purposes of who may need to quarantine following an exposure.
  • Provide a separate, isolated living space (separate sleeping quarters and toilet rooms or toilets, or a separate building if the worker cannot be isolated in their current living space) to workers who have symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19, unless the symptomatic worker resides in a one-family housing unit or in a family living unit that is part of a multifamily unit.
  • If it isn’t possible to assign a separate bathroom to a worker with COVID-19 symptoms, consider establishing designated times for people in isolation to shower and establish a disinfection protocol to reduce exposure risk.
  • Except for individual family units, high-touch areas within toilet rooms and bathing, laundry, handwashing, cooking, eating, and sleeping facilities must be disinfected daily. Do laundry for sick employees. See the CDC's recommendations for cleaning living spaces, which includes laundry guidelines.
  • If it is difficult to effectively isolate workers within their current living space, contact your local or tribal health department to ask about isolation options in your area.
  • Ensure that isolated workers have access to medical care, including telephone and telehealth options, and have a plan to get any necessary medication to the individual. Make sure any language needs are met and that the person is able to get their questions answered.
  • Provide food and water to workers under isolation in order to minimize the need for them to leave isolation.
  • Monitor the individual for worsening symptoms. Assign a designated caregiver for each sick worker who will be on call and easily contacted. Provide workers with phone number(s) for the emergency contact person to assist them if symptoms worsen.
  • Remain in communication with public health officials. Public health officials may provide further instructions about isolation and release from isolation.
  • Review the CDC’s COVID-19 Guidance for Shared or Congregate Housing, in particular the section on If a Resident in Your Facility has COVID-19 (suspected or confirmed).

Returning to work

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 and had symptoms should stay home from work until:

  • At least 24 hours after they are free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms have improved and;
  • At least 10 days after the date they first had symptoms. See our flyer for details.

Employees who tested positive but do not have symptoms should stay home until 10 days from the date they were tested. See our flyer for details.

Sharing information

It is important to keep people informed and to communicate the steps you are taking to keep employees and customers safe, particularly when there have been changes in workplace practices or operating procedures. Communication is also critical to promote healthy habits and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Communicating steps being taken to increase safety

  • Tell workers about the steps being taken in the workplace and housing facilities to prevent the spread of the virus (for example, mechanisms to establish physical distancing, installation of physical barriers, provision of protective equipment and cleaning and disinfecting supplies, or more frequent cleaning and disinfection schedules).
  • Communicate to workers important safety messages and updates daily using strategies that limit group meetings. If group meetings must occur, hold them outside or in a space where people can observe physical distancing of at least six feet.

Inviting input and suggestions

  • Seek input from workers regarding additional measures that could be taken to ensure workplace and housing safety.
  • Ensure workers have the opportunity to make suggestions on health and safety measures or to report unsafe housing or work conditions.
    • Provide training to supervisors on worker protections and health and safety.
    • It is against the law for an employer to take any adverse action, including:
      • Terminating or threatening a worker for exercising safety and health rights such as raising safety and health concerns to their employer.
      • Participating in union activities concerning safety and health matters, filing a safety and health complaint, or participating in an OSHA investigation.
      • Workers have 30 days from the date of any such discriminatory action by the employer to file their complaint with OSHA.
  • Visibly post anti-retaliation protections and phone numbers workers can call to report retaliation. Provide in English, Spanish, and other languages commonly used by any employee.

Posting signage

What print materials are available for employers? 

The following resources are for employers to use to inform themselves and their employees on public health best practices and precautions to take to continue protecting employees, customers, and communities from COVID-19. Download these resources and post them in your business to inform customers and employees of best practices to stay safe and healthy.

Additional print materials and videos from DHS are available in multiple languages.

For workers

This fact sheet provides information for workers who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Answers to questions frequently asked by workers are provided below.

How do I stay safe and protect my workplace from COVID-19? 

CDC recommends taking steps to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 in the workplace. These include staying home if necessary, monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19, wearing a mask, social distancing in shared spaces, washing your hands often, avoiding shared objects and equipment, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces. For details, see CDC’s recommendations for all workers, and resources for workers in specific industries.

Health care workers can visit the DHS health care providers webpage for more information.

Resources for Wisconsin agricultural workers are available:

What should I do if my employer is not protecting workers from COVID-19? 

The following information is about COVID-19 safety only. Information about other occupational health and safety issues is on the DHS Occupational Health webpage.

What you should do depends on whether you are a private sector employee (that is, your workplace is not operated by state or local governments) or a public sector employee (your workplace is operated by state or local government).

Private sector employees

Contact your personnel department to find out what your employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is.

If you believe that your employer’s policy is not protecting workers from COVID-19, you can contact your OSHA regional office by phone or online at the OSHA website. Many complaints are handled informally by OSHA. There are whistleblower provisions designed to protect employees who file a complaint from losing employment or pay, and OSHA has a whistleblower liaison.

Public sector employees

Contact your personnel department to find out what your employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is. If you believe that your employer’s policy is not protecting workers from COVID-19, you can send questions or concerns to the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) Tech mailbox. You can also file a complaint or concern on the DSPS webpage. Click on “file a complaint” on the right side of the page to reach an online form. Make sure to enter your category and profession in the drop-down boxes to route your question, concern, or complaint to the right person.

What if I can't work after being exposed or testing positive for COVID-19 or because my workplace or my child's school is closed? 

Options that may be available include:

  • Many employees (but not all) were eligible for federal paid sick leave or emergency family and medical leave through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Your employer is not required to provide you with FFCRA leave after December 31, 2020, but your employer may voluntarily decide to provide you such leave. See the U.S. Department of Labor Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers for more information.
  • If a medical professional told you to quarantine, or you lost your job or had your hours reduced due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. Visit the Department of Workforce Development for more information, answers to frequently asked questions, and to apply.
  • The Department of Workforce Development has additional information for Wisconsin workers:
  • DHS has a list of resources and assistance including income supports; help paying for food, rent, or utilities; and more on our Resources for Wisconsinites webpage.
  • UW-Madison's School for Workers created a booklet summarizing worker legal rights related to COVID-19.

If I must isolate because of a positive COVID-19 test, when can I return to work? 

For most people, testing to see when isolation should end is not recommended.

  • If you had symptoms, isolate from others until:
    • At least 10 days from the date your symptoms first appeared, and
    • At least 24 hours with no fever (without using fever-reducing medication), and
    • Other symptoms have improved.
  • If you do not have symptoms and never develop symptoms, isolate for at least 10 days after your test date.

What can I do if I don't have health insurance? 

There are a number of options for health insurance and lower-cost health care. Visit the COVID-19 Response Resources for Wisconsinites webpage to learn about programs for health insurance and health care, nutrition, and benefits specifically for veterans or people with disabilities.

What precautions should I take when I am not at work? 

You can reduce your risk of being exposed to COVID-19 by staying home as much as possible. If you go out, DHS offers tips and resources for staying safe in your community. and guidance for simple things you can do to stop the spread of COVID-19.

What other resources are available? 


Workplace outbreak guidance

The Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) have released guidance for employers related to preventing and managing COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace.

Preventing and Managing COVID-19 Outbreaks in the Workplace, P-02787 

Preventing and Managing COVID-19 Outbreaks in the Workplace, P-02787


Coping tips and workers for families

Altered family routines. New financial pressures. Worry for yourself and your loved ones. Facing uncertainty at work, interrupted employment, or the increased risks that come with working an essential job during a pandemic. There is no doubt that COVID-19 is creating strain for people throughout Wisconsin. Adapting to these changes can be stressful for you and your family. But with self-care, the support of your loved ones, and a few healthy coping strategies, you can manage and reduce the pressure you may feel at work or at home.

Logo for Resilient Wisconsin: Connected. Stronger. Thriving.

Finding healthy ways to cope with challenges is more important than ever. Resilient Wisconsin offers strategies for practicing self-care, maintaining social connections, and reducing stress and anxiety.

Well-Being in the Workplace: Support and Resources for Coping with COVID-19 Stress

For workers: English | Spanish | Hmong
For employers: English| Spanish | Hmong

Try these five strategies

  • Know it’s okay: It’s normal to feel upset and afraid when life changes in dramatic ways. Don’t judge your actions and emotions during times of stress too harshly.
  • Stick to a routine: Create a schedule for working, relaxing, physical activity, and connecting with loved ones that you and your family can rely on.
  • Prioritize self-care: Getting adequate rest and exercise, eating healthy foods, and maintaining your social connections can help you take better care of yourself and others.
  • Live with purpose: Disruptions in your work and home life can leave you floundering. Finding new ways to stay active and make contributions in your life and community can help reduce anxiety.
  • Ask for the help you need: Addressing your own stress and anxiety is critical. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from loved ones, turn to a trusted advisor, or seek the support of a mental or behavioral health professional.
 

Resources to help you manage stress and adapt to change

Essential workers and their families

For those working essential jobs in government and health care, at grocery stores, community utilities, and in other vital workplaces, staying safer at home during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t an option. Balancing your obligations as an employee with the natural concerns you may feel for your own health, financial well-being, and the safety of your loved ones isn’t easy. Find tips for managing risk, reducing stress and taking care of yourself and others while serving your community.

People facing interrupted employment

From coast to coast and across a wide variety of industries, workers have found themselves facing interrupted employment and job loss. Whether you’ve been laid off or temporarily furloughed, face lowered wages, or find that you cannot work due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions or concerns, the stress you may feel could compromise your physical and mental health. Invest in self-care techniques and tools for managing and reducing stress that can help you care for yourself and the people you care for, both now and when you return to work.

Apply for benefits

Wisconsin has many programs that can help you and your family.

People working from home

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance gets harder when work and life happen in the same place. New challenges like altered work schedules and routines, mastering new technology, or trying to collaborate with colleagues at a distance can add to your stress. The tools and tips below can help you build the resilience you need to thrive, whether you’re working in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, learning to share your working and living space with others, or are striving to meet your daily obligations as an employee while taking on new child care and homeschooling responsibilities.

Families with children at home

No matter their age, children can react strongly during emergencies and periods of stress. Separation from family and friends, changes to their routines at home and at school, and the anxiety children sense in the adults around them can all have a negative impact on their physical, emotional and mental health. When parents and caregivers deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they provide the best support for their children. Talking with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak can help. Share the facts in a way they’ll understand, and make sure they know they’re safe and that it’s okay to feel upset or afraid. 

For people supporting youth and young adults

Teens and young adults have unique needs while adapting to COVID-19. Here are tips from teens in the PATCH program on how adults in their life can support them.

  • Make space for disappointment or sadness. Young people may be missing milestone moments. Acknowledge this, even if these issues seem small compared to other stressors or issues adults are experiencing. Empathy can go a long way.
  • Making the adjustment to distance learning can be challenging. Words of encouragement and recognition of hard work can make a big difference.
  • Allow alone time. Parents and caregivers might be stressed about being at home with their children without usual time apart. Youth are experiencing the same stress and desire for space. Talk to young people in your life about making a routine that works for all of you.
  • Engage youth in your life as leaders and problem solvers. Providing teens a leadership role at home, choices within the distance learning environment, or ways to make a difference from a distance can motivate teens and show them that you recognize their perspective as important.
  • Young people in your life might be dealing with a variety of challenges, related to COVID-19 and not. Reach out and check on them. Talk with them about how they are doing and what they need.
  • Just as adults may experience challenges with normal activities during times of stress, these challenges are normal for youth, too! Understand that young people in your life are trying, be compassionate and kind, and encourage them to seek help if needed.
Last Revised: May 24, 2021

211 Wisconsin

Call 211 or 877-947-2211 to get referrals for thousands of services across Wisconsin. For COVID-19 questions, text COVID to 211-211. Language assistance is available.

Resilient Wisconsin

Get help learning how to manage stress and adapt to change with services and support from organizations across the state.

Helpful resources

Find help with housing, income, food, employment, health care, mental health concerns, safety at home, and more—in multiple languages.

 The information on this page contains Department of Health Services (DHS) recommendations, some of which may be required based on state or local orders. Please contact your local or tribal health department for more information on COVID-19 related public health orders in your community.