With ongoing cases of COVID-19 in schools and the community, learning that a co-worker has tested positive can be confusing and scary. Vermont’s robust contact tracers have been successful in contacting most known close contacts of newly-diagnosed people within 48 hours of test results coming in.

The Vermont Department of Health website offers guidance on what to expect. Here are excerpts.


How will I know if my co-worker tested positive?

Your co-worker may tell you directly, your employer may tell you, or you may receive a call from the Health Department if you had possible close contact with a co-worker who tested positive. There may be misinformation circulating and concerns about getting COVID-19 among co-workers.

Why might the VT Health Department call me?

When a person tests positive for COVID-19, the health department contacts them to find out who they were in close contact with during their infectious period (beginning two days before the start of symptoms or two days before a positive test result for people who did not have symptoms). Close contact means being within 6 feet of each other for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. The health department will follow up with each close contact to assess their risk for COVID-19 and provide information about staying home and the importance of getting tested.


When would I need to quarantine and stay home from work?

If you were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 while they were infectious, you should quarantine for 14 days. Day 0 is the last day you had contact with that person. There may be some exceptions on quarantine guidance based on your type of employment and staffing capacity. The health department will provide you with specific guidance and next steps to take. You can contact your health care provider about getting tested on or after day seven of quarantine, if you have had no symptoms. This option is not available to those who work in close congregate settings where there is a high risk of transmitting COVID-19 to vulnerable people, such as assisted living and detention facilities. If your test is negative, you may end quarantine early and go back to work. For both close contacts and people who tested positive: a negative test for COVID-19 nor a letter from the health department should be required from your employer to return to work. The health department does not provide letters indicating that you can return to work. If you were not in close contact with someone with COVID-19 while they were infectious, you may go to work and you do not need to quarantine.