What is the Return to Work Criteria?

What is the Return to Work Criteria?

The CDC recommends that employers follow the following two strategies for return to work criteria for HCP with confirmed or suspected COVID-19:

  1. Test-based strategy. Exclude from work until
    • Resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
    • Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), and
    • Negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized molecular assay for COVID-19 from at least two consecutive nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected ≥24 hours apart (total of two negative specimens).
  1. Non-test-based strategy. Exclude from work until
    • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and,
    • At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared


If HCP were never tested for COVID-19 but have an alternate diagnosis (e.g., tested positive for influenza), criteria for return to work should be based on that diagnosis.


Can the Employer ask me to return to work prior to the recommended work restriction?

Due to staffing shortages, the CDC allows the facility to make a decision to have HCP return to work earlier than recommended by the CDC provided you do not have a fever or any COVID-19 symptoms.  However, it is the Union’s position that any return to work early is subject to mutual agreement between the member and the home as long as the member is feeling well and able to work.


In this instance it is recommended that the facility and the HCP must follow the return to work practices and restrictions outlined in the CDC guidance, as summarized below:


After returning to work, HCP should:

  • Wear a face mask at all times while in the healthcare facility until all symptoms are completely resolved or until 14 days after illness onset, whichever is longer
  • Be restricted from contact with severely immunocompromised patients (e.g., transplant, hematology-oncology) until 14 days after illness onset
  • Adhere to hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette in CDC’s interim infection control guidance (e.g., cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, dispose of tissues in waste receptacles)
  • Self-monitor for symptoms, and seek re-evaluation from occupational health if respiratory symptoms recur or worsen