Protocol: Contact With Suspected Case

The following protocol should be followed by a supervisor when they learn that an employee has had contact with someone who is either suspected to have COVID-19 or has a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. 


This protocol is designed to assess and mitigate possible exposure due to close personal contact or contact with contaminated surfaces.

Contact Versus Close Contact

For purposes of this guidance, contact means a direct interaction with a person who is suspected to have or has been diagnosed with COVID-19.  Close contact is an interaction where there is less than 6 feet physical distance between the parties to the interaction and the interaction lasts at least 10 minutes. 

How COVID-19 Spreads

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. Additionally, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. But this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Public health officials and researchers are still learning more about how this virus spreads

Current Public Health Guidance

Under current public health guidance, secondary contact (contact with someone who has had contact with a suspected or confirmed case) does not trigger a quarantine, site closure, or other institutional-level responses. Instead, individuals who have had secondary or tertiary contact should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, wear a face covering when in public, and continue to practice social distancing.

Contact at Work

If while at work an employee(s) has contact with another employee, student, or visitor who is displaying COVID-19 symptoms or is otherwise suspected of having COVID-19 or contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, follow this protocol. 

  1. Supervisor takes immediate action to triage and/or contain the suspected case:
    • Check with symptomatic person to determine if there are other underlying or non-contagious reasons for the symptoms (e.g. allergies, asthma etc.). Maintain social distance and wear a face covering while doing so if in person.
    • If no other underlying or non-contagious reasons are found, send symptomatic employee home immediately and advise them to seek testing and to contact their medical provider.
      • Or, if a student or visitor to the workspace is displaying symptoms, ask them to return home or at minimum leave the workspace and advise them to seek testing and to contact their medical provider.
    • Direct a symptomatic employee or student to complete the COVID-19 questionnaire.
    • Advise the employee to telework if both their position and health permits. For those unable to telework, or who are ill, they should be directed to check with Human Resources regarding paid leave for which they may be eligible or encourage them to contact HR if they have questions.
    • Immediately contact Risk Management and notify them of the suspected case.
      • Risk Management will work with Emergency Management to gather information directly from employee or student to facilitate the evaluations required in items 2 and 3 below.
  1. Supervisor, in consultation with Risk Management, evaluates potential contamination of worksite:
    • Evaluate the areas where symptomatic person worked and/or visited and the number of and type of touch points in those areas.
    • Close off employee’s workspace, if possible, and do not disturb for 24 hours.
    • Clean workspace after 24 hours.
  2. Supervisor, in consultation with Risk Management, determines whether other employees should be sent home to quarantine:
    • Evaluate frequency and duration of symptomatic person’s close contact with other employees. Close contact is defined by health officials as within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more.
    • Evaluate prevention protocols in place while symptomatic person was on worksite:
      • Social distancing practices
      • Use of face coverings
      • Use of gloves (where applicable)
      • Cleaning and disinfection practices

Contact at Home             

If while at home or off-duty an employee has contact with someone with a suspected and/or confirmed case, the supervisor should follow this protocol. 

  1. Supervisor discusses quarantine with employee:
    • Explore whether employee has or can isolate themselves from the person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 while they are at home.
    • Inquire whether medical or public health official has recommended that the person quarantine.
  2. Supervisor provides telework options for employee if their position and health permit. Alternatively, consider assigning employee to workspace where they are not interacting with other employees, students, or visitors.
  3. If flexible work arrangements are not available and employee cannot isolate themselves from person with COVID-19, supervisor should discuss leave options with employee. Contact HR for assistance with determining appropriate leave.