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Why is quarantine after travel to certain places being recommended? What does it mean?
Quarantine is a term used by medical professionals. A person is quarantined because that person might have been exposed to COVID-19 and needs to stay away from others to protect those persons from possible infection.
Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.
What is considered travel to a state identified by the Department of Health? What if I am just passing through or stopping for fuel?
Travel to another state occurs any time a person crosses into another state and is in close contact with people in that state.
The CDC states that making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and surfaces.
When considering whether to quarantine after travel, you should consider the types of behavior that occurred while traveling to or through one of the listed states. For example, traveling to one’s office where social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene are practiced regularly is a less risky behavior than going to a restaurant or gathering that does not enforce mask wearing or social distancing.
How does the recommendation to quarantine after travel to certain states apply to commonwealth employees?
If you plan to travel or have traveled to a state designated by the Department of Health and plan to self-quarantine, consult with your supervisory staff before the trip or before returning to the worksite and follow these guidelines. Acceptable proof of travel to a designated state will be required to quarantine.
- If you are teleworking, continue to telework and do not report to your worksite. If you are physically reporting to a worksite but have the option and ability to telework, commence telework in consultation with your supervisory staff. It is recommended that teleworking employees quarantine at home for 14 calendar days.
- If you are a health care worker or emergency responder (See Question 4 below), you are expected to work unless instructed otherwise by your supervisory staff. If you are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms, you should consult with your health care provider.
- If you are physically reporting to a worksite and do not have the option or ability to telework, you have the option to quarantine for 14 calendar days. You may use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (ES), if available, or your own paid or unpaid leave. Contact your FMLA Specialist at email@example.com or 717.346.4667 to determine your leave options.
I have just returned from a designated state after the recommendation was issued, and I work as a direct care staff at a 24/7 facility. Am I required to quarantine?
Generally, you are not required to quarantine. However, as variance exists across agencies and/or program offices, please consult with your supervisory staff upon your return from travel and before you report back to work for specific direction based on your worksite.
If I self-quarantine, can I decide to return to work before the 14-calendar day period fully elapses?
No. If you choose to self-quarantine, you may not choose to report to the worksite prior to completing the 14-calendar day quarantine.
What types of leave may I use if I receive approval to self-quarantine?
You may use any accrued and/or anticipated paid leave types you have available to cover your absence for the purpose of self-quarantine. You may also change to a different available leave type during your self-quarantine. However, if you elect to use emergency paid sick leave (ES leave), you will be required to use it in consecutive, full-day increments until it is exhausted or the qualifying event ends (in this case the quarantine).
If you are a new employee, the rules that normally prohibit employees with less than one (1) year of service from anticipating leave during their first year of employment are temporarily suspended for absences due to COVID-19. Therefore, if you have less than one (1) year of employment, you may anticipate annual leave to which you would become entitled in the 2020 leave calendar year.
If you use all your available paid leave, or have no paid leave available, you may use approved leave without pay (AO) to cover your absence.
Does the commonwealth distinguish between work-related travel and personal travel?
No. Travel to the designated states poses an increased risk whether traveling for business or personal reasons.
What if I am required to travel for work to one of the designated states?
Agency managers have been asked to carefully evaluate all work-related travel during this emergency pandemic. If it is determined that you must travel for work to a state designated by DOH and 1) you elect to quarantine, AND 2) you are not able to telework, you should contact your FMLA Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717.346.4667 to determine your leave options.
Will the recommendation be extended to more states? Will states be removed from the list?
It is expected that as states see increases in their COVID-19 case counts that more states will be added to the list. Conversely, if COVID-19 case counts decrease, states may be removed as the risk lessens. The list will be updated every Friday by the Department of Health based on the most up-to-date, nationwide case information.
Since the list of states changes each week, how do I determine whether I should consider self-quarantining?
If you have traveled to a designated state any time during which that state was designated, it is recommended you follow the Department of Health guidelines for assessment.
What if I live in a designated state and commute into PA for work?
You should continue your current work status as appropriate.
Although all 67 counties in Pennsylvania are in the green phase, it is safest to limit all non-life-sustaining travel both within and outside the state as much as possible. If you must commute to and from work, you should limit additional stops or interactions in states with high numbers of COVID-19 cases. You should consider the level of risk involved in your travel. For example, traveling to your office where social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene are practiced regularly is a less risky behavior than going to a restaurant or gathering that does not enforce mask wearing or social distancing.
Can my manager or supervisor mandate quarantine post-travel since the Department of Health has only made it a recommendation?
The Department of Health does not dictate how commonwealth agencies should implement these recommendations, but your agency may determine that the risk of transmission is sufficient enough to develop policies and procedures that mandate quarantine for its employees.
Is it recommended that I quarantine if I am asymptomatic?
The recommendations apply whether you have symptoms or not.
Can I get tested instead? If I test negative, is it still recommended that I quarantine for 14 days?
Testing does not negate the recommendation to quarantine. You should consider getting tested four to seven days after you may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19, or if you are exhibiting symptoms after you return from out-of-state travel. A test only shows an individual’s infection status at the time of the test. An infected person generally exhibits symptoms between 2 to 14 calendar days after exposure; therefore, a person should quarantine for the entire 14 days even if they have had a negative test during this time.
Should I consider quarantine if I already had COVID-19
and have recovered?
Since COVID-19 is a novel (new) coronavirus, it is unknown if a person can be re-infected with the virus, therefore, quarantine after returning from travel to one of the designated states is recommended.
If my spouse or family member has returned from one of the designated states, must a non-traveling household member quarantine?
The recommendation applies to those who have traveled to one of the listed states. However, if the individual who is under quarantine develops any signs or symptoms or has a positive test result, their close contacts, including household members, should also consider quarantining.