By John K. McGill, CPA, MBA, JD
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases grows, so does the risk that one of your staffers becomes infected. If this happens, you must be ready to respond immediately to protect your patients and other employees—and limit your legal liability. Here are the steps you need to take.
1. Employees experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (i.e. fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.) should notify you, get tested, and stay at home. Staffers who arrive at work displaying these symptoms, or become sick during the day, should be immediately separated from other staffers and patients, sent home, and encouraged to get tested.
2. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they should be instructed to stay home, follow all medical recommendations, seek treatment if symptoms worsen, and not return to work until the CDC recommended criteria to discontinue home isolation are met.
Protect Other Employees
3. If one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19, you must inform your other employees of their possible exposure, but maintain confidentiality of the positive employee’s name as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
4. You should immediately notify affected patients, visitors, vendors, and other employees who came into contact with the sick employee within 14 days prior to their testing positive or displaying symptoms, and recommend they seek testing and self-quarantine for 14 days, or work remotely if possible.
5. As an exception to the general rule requiring exposed employees to isolate, the CDC allows healthcare personnel (dentists and staff) to continue working after potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are taken.
6. The remaining unexposed employees should self-monitor for symptoms. Ask unaffected staff to seek testing. Keep the rest of the staff informed regarding the date tested, results of test, any progression of symptoms or improvement, etc.
7. Record the confirmed COVID-19 case on your OSHA 300 log if it is work-related and involves one or more of the general recording criteria, such as required medical treatment beyond first-aid or days away from work. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and should be coded as such on the OSHA Form 300. Because this is an illness, if an employee voluntarily requests that his or her name not be entered on the log, the employer must comply as specified under 29 CFR § 1904.29(b)(7)(vi).
8. Immediately clean and disinfect environmental surfaces in your facility according to the CDC’s Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Dental Settings during COVID-19.
9. Depending on the size of your office and the breadth of exposure, consider whether you need to temporarily close your practice.
10. Contact your local and state health departments to report the confirmed case in order to aid contact tracing and to assure appropriate protocols and guidelines are followed.
Pay Required Sick Leave
11. Through December 31, 2020, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires you to provide up to 10 days (80 hours) of paid sick leave to any employee who tests positive for COVID-19, displays COVID-19 symptoms, or was quarantined as a result of the virus.
12. Notify your payroll provider and CPA if you are required to pay such sick leave, since you qualify for full (100%) reimbursement of the amount paid through payroll tax credits.
John K. McGill, CPA, MBA, JD
John is a nationally prominent tax attorney and CPA who has specialized in dealing exclusively with the dental profession for more than 30 years. He is President of John K. McGill & Company, Inc., Editor of The McGill Advisory newsletter and shareholder in the law firm of McGill and Hassan, P.A. He graduated with honors from Erskine College and holds both a Master of Business Administration and law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He formerly worked with the Office of Chief Counsel, the legal branch of the Internal Revenue Service, in Washington, DC. He is a member of the American Bar Association and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
This article was reprinted with permission from The McGill Advisory, a monthly newsletter with online resources devoted to tax, financial planning, investments, and practice management matters exclusively for dentists and specialists, published by John K. McGill & Company, Inc. (a member of The McGill & Hill Group LLC). Visit www.mcgilladvisory.com or call 888.249.7537 for further information.