Business guidance if a staff member tests positive for COVID-19

How to keep the rest of your staff and the public safe and healthy.

What to do

You do not need to shut down your business if an employee tests positive.

1. Check with your staff member who tested positive

See if they had symptoms of COVID-19 while they were either:

  • At work
  • Within 48 hours after leaving work

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

If the staff member did not have symptoms of COVID-19 at work or within 48 hours after leaving work, you are not required to notify staff. Your staff member should follow their healthcare provider's instructions.

2. Inform your staff

Remember, you must maintain their privacy. Do not name anyone who is sick unless they give you permission.

  1. Determine the last day that the person with COVID-19 was at the workplace.
  2. Figure out who had close contact with the ill person, within 48 hours of that person feeling sick. (Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, or having direct contact with their body fluids or secretions while they were not wearing a facemask, gown, and gloves. Close contact also includes people who live with, take care of, or are taken care of by the person with COVID-19.)
  3. Tell close contacts that they must quarantine for 14 days since the last day that the ill person was at work. Even if they test negative for COVID-19, they must finish the entire 14 day quarantine.
  4. Give all other staff members a General Exposure Advisory. They should self monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the last day that the case was at work. They should contact a healthcare provider if they develop symptoms.

3. Clean and disinfect thoroughly before opening or bringing staff back to work

Cleaning includes:

  • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area, if possible. See ventilation requirements for businesses.
  • Clean and disinfect all areas used by the staff member, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, and remote controls.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces including door knobs, tabletops, counters, phones, keyboards, and fixtures.

4. Allow a recovered staff member to return to work

The staff member who tested positive must isolate themselves at home

They must stay home and not go to work until all of the following are true:

  • Their temperature has gone under 100.4° Fahrenheit (38.0° Celsius) for the past 24 hours, without medicine like acetaminophen
  • Their cough or breathing problems have gotten better for the past 24 hours
  • It’s been at least 10 days after their first symptoms, even if they tested negative for COVID-19

See DPH guidance including FAQ and additional resources. See this guidance in 中文, Pilipino, Español, العربية.

They do not need a doctor’s note to return to work. See a signed letter about returning to work, from San Francisco’s Health Officer.

See more detailed DPH guidance around employees going back to work after having COVID-19. See this guidance in 中文, Pilipino, Español.

Special cases

Workers in skilled nursing facilities

You have more strict criteria for returning to work. See guidance for long term care facilities from the Department of Public Health.

Get help

SFDPH COVID-19 Employer and Workplace Support


Call if 3 or more employees test positive in a 2-week period.

Last updated November 09, 2020