Containing COVID-19: Why the Boss Sent Me Home

24 March 2020

From Daniel Torok

To help prevent the spread of the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) commanders and commanding officers have been given a wide latitude on using maximum telework, restrictions of movement (ROM), quarantining and/or isolation.

To help prevent the spread of the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) commanders and commanding officers have been given a wide latitude on using maximum telework, restrictions of movement (ROM), quarantining and/or isolation.

But if you’re like everyone else right now, you’re wondering when you go back to work. Last week, BUMED issued guidance that clearly spells out when you should stay home, when you should return to work and when you should go see a doc if you are symptomatic.

If you catch the novel coronavirus you may show symptoms for a week, a day or never at all. So, what should you be looking for? For starters, most cases begin with a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. Signs of a fever include shivering, chills, body aches, excessive sweating and headaches. In addition, there can also respiratory symptoms such as dry cough and shortness of breath.

As the virus progresses through your body, it can affect your lungs, and in the worst case will exacerbate the epithelial cells. In common terms, the coronavirus can hijack your lungs and kill off the good cells.

This leads to inflammation causing your lungs to fill with fluid, also known as pneumonia. Those are only the worst cases!

Fortunately, most cases only result in a fever and a cough as the virus doesn’t travel past your nose and throat.

Let’s begin with the clearest guidance: if you are symptomatic and test positive. Immediately isolate yourself from everyone, listen to your doctor and keep hydrated. It is safe to return to work after your fever clears without medication, your cough subsides and you have two back-to-back negative COVID-19 results 24 hours apart.

If you did not receive a lab test, but a doctor diagnosed you positive because you exhibit the CDC-required symptoms, then you must wait 72 hours after you are symptom free and a minimum of seven days since you first showed signs.

If you’re home with the common flu and either tested negative or did not exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you must wait at least 24 hours of being symptom free without the help of medications before you can return to work. Always consult your doctor so they can make the determination if you need the test or not!

“But I feel fine,” aka no symptoms, however someone you know tests positive with the virus or perhaps you have traveled to a known COVID-19 hot spot, then you must self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of your departure. If you should become symptomatic, call your doctor or hospital before you go for a test so they can make the necessary precautions to protect their staff and patients.

What about the elephant in the room? No one you know is sick, but your command sent you home indefinitely to keep you safe… You must adhere to whatever your command guidance is. When it is safe for you to return to work, your command will let you know.

If ever in doubt, contact your chain of command and follow their guidance.  

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