By Lisa Edison-Smith

As North Dakota employers deal with staff shortages due to COVID-19, the CDC has given some potential relief by offering alternatives shortening quarantine periods in some instances.  The CDC announcement is aimed to reduce staffing shortages and economic hardship caused by lengthy quarantine periods on businesses and individual workers.

The CDC had previously recommended that all employees quarantine for 14 days after last exposure to COVID-19.  On December 2, however, the CDC announced two additional “options” for quarantine.  The new options allow asymptomatic individuals to end quarantine after 10 days without testing or on day 7 after receiving a negative test result. The North Dakota Department of Health has updated its quarantine recommendations to address the new 7/10 day quarantine.  A graphic depiction of updated quarantine recommendations is available here.

The CDC continues to endorse the full 14-day quarantine as the safest option for reducing the transmission of the virus.  Individuals who use the new 7/10 day option are advised to continue to watch for symptoms for 14 days after last exposure; to isolate if symptoms develop; and to follow standard advice to wear a mask, maintain 6 feet social distancing, wash hands frequently, and take other steps to avoid crowds to reduce the spread of the disease.

In the interim, North Dakota employers are reminded of the mask mandate imposed by Governor Doug Burgum through Executive Order on November 14, incorporating State Health Department recommendations.  The mask mandate is set to expire on December 13, but is subject to extension by the Governor and supplements local orders already in place in several communities.

In addition to masking and quarantine issues, employers are anxiously awaiting what could be a fairly lengthy period of rollout of anticipated COVID-19 vaccines.  During this period, employers are advised to consider the best vaccination strategy for their individual workforces and make a decision on whether to adopt mandatory vaccination policies.  Employers wishing to do so should consult employment law counsel to discuss the pros and cons, as well as the legal requirements of such policies.

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