Covid-19 Q & A Updated March 27, 2020

What are the symptoms, and how severe is the disease?

The virus causes a pneumonia-like respiratory illness that varies in severity, but can be deadly. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some people also report fatigue, and in some cases people have been found to be infected, but clear of any symptoms. Many of the symptoms are common to other respiratory diseases. Lab tests based on the virus’ genetic sequence can confirm infection.

How is the virus transmitted, and how contagious is it?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the new coronavirus is transmitted from person to person in close contact, within about 6 feet of one another. The incubation period, or how long before someone who is infected shows symptoms, is estimated to be around 4 days, but may range from 2 to 14 days, according to the CDC. 

How can people protect themselves from contracting or spreading the virus?

The CDC advises people to wash their hands frequently, with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands, avoid close contact with sick individuals, and avoid social interactions generally to prevent community spread.

What if I need to take time off work because I contract COVID-19? 

The first and best option for employees who need to miss work due to illness is to use their employer-paid time off. Labor and Industries has information about Paid Sick Leave. When this leave is not available, Paid Family & Medical Leave may be available to help.

What if I am asked by a medical professional or public health official to quarantine as a result of COVID-19, but I am not sick?

If you are following guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official to isolate or quarantine yourself as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and you are not receiving paid sick leave from your employer, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. If you know you can return to your job as soon as your isolation or quarantine is lifted, you may not need to search for work. You must able to accept any work offered by your employer that would not cause you to break isolation or quarantine.

What if I am temporarily laid off work because business has slowed down as a result of COVID-19?

If you are laid off work temporarily or if your hours are reduced due to a business slowdown or a lack of demand as a result of COVID-19, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits if I become seriously ill and I am forced to quit my job as a result of COVID-19?

If you are too ill to be able and available for work, you do not qualify for unemployment benefits. However, you may qualify for Paid Family & Medical Leave while you are sick. Once you recover and are available for work again, you can apply for unemployment benefits.  

An employee is attending a function (funeral/wedding) and there will be more than 10 or more people attending. Should we allow them to return to work.

No, they should self-quarantine for 14 days as they are in violation of the current State guidelines of assembly.

We have an employee that has a sick child (flu-related) and now says the child is better and wants to return to work? Do we allow them?

Only with a doctor’s note that says the child was not infected by the virus and is now well again.

An employee has had a flu-related illness and wants to return to work. They say they are okay. Do we allow them to come back to work?

Only with a doctor’s note that says they are clear to return.

When does the Families First Coronavirus Response Act go into effect?

Effective April 2, 2020

If an employee is placed on a layoff status can they file for unemployment without delay.


Regarding insurance – If employees have taken health, dental, vision insurance and are laid off or terminated, their coverage will end on the last day of the month.

The employee must pay their portion of the insurance for the remainder of the current month. It is up to the employee to select COBRA.

Can you explain the Family Medical Leave provisions?

Under the proposed expanded FMLA, covered employers (those with fewer than 500 employees) will have to allow 12 weeks of FMLA leave for use by employees who have been employed for 30 days. The first two weeks can be unpaid, although employees may elect to use other paid benefits to cover it. The remaining time must be paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate. Leave under this extended provision can be used when the employee needs leave due to a public emergency with respect to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 for one of the following reasons:

To comply with a recommendation or order by a health authority or a health care provider that the physical presence of the employee on the job would jeopardize the health of others because of the (a) exposure of the employee to coronavirus, or (b) exhibition of symptoms of Coronavirus/COVID-19 by the employee, and the employee is unable to both perform the functions of the job and comply with the recommendation or order.

To care for a family member of an eligible employee, where a health authority or a healthcare provider makes a determination that the presence of the family member in the community would jeopardize the health of others in the community because of the (a) exposure of the family member to Coronavirus/COVID-19 or (b) exhibition of symptoms of Coronavirus/COVID-19 by the family member.

To care for a child of the employee who is under 18 years old if the elementary or secondary school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider of the child is unavailable, due to a public health emergency. 

What is the Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

The Act requires two weeks of paid sick leave for government workers and employees of companies with fewer than 500 employees. Leave must be made available to workers who are symptomatic or are under an order or advice to quarantine or self-isolate, who have to care for a family member under such an order or advice, or who have a child whose school or child care provider or facility has closed or is unavailable due to the coronavirus. The Act provides that future regulations issued by the Dept. of Labor may exempt health care providers and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the paid sick leave requirement.

Application and Amount: Public and private employers with less than 500 employees must provide up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave to full-time employees and the average number of hours the employee works over a two-week period to part-time employees. This paid leave benefit is available for immediate use, regardless of how long the employee has been employed by the employer.

Pay Caps: Generally, this emergency paid sick leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay; however, the employer can cap pay, and the amount of the cap depends upon the reason for the leave.

If I have to get tested for the COVID-19 virus, who pays for it?

Covered COVID-19 Testing at No Cost to Patient: All group and individual health insurance plans must provide coverage for COVID-19 testing, without prior authorization or any cost sharing, deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance from the patient. Testing provided by Medicare and Medicaid will likewise be at no cost to the patient, and increased funding for federal Medicaid and testing of the uninsured also will be provided

What’s the difference between a Furlough and Layoff?

Furlough – A furlough is considered to be an alternative to layoff. When an employer furloughs its employees, it requires them to work fewer hours or to take a certain amount of unpaid time off. For example, an employer may furlough its nonexempt employees one day a week for the remainder of the year and pay them for only 32 hours instead of their normal 40 hours each week. Another method of furlough is to require all employees to take a week or two of unpaid leave sometime during the year. Employers must be careful when furloughing exempt employees so that they continue to pay them on a salary basis and do not jeopardize their exempt status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A furlough that encompasses a full workweek is one way to accomplish this, since the FLSA states that exempt employees do not have to be paid for any week in which they perform no work.  

An employer may require all employees to go on furlough, or it may exclude some employees who provide essential services. Generally, the theory is to have the majority of employees share some hardship as opposed to a few employees losing their jobs completely.

Layoff – A layoff is a temporary separation from payroll. An employee is laid off because there is not enough work for him or her to perform. The employer, however, believes that this condition will change and intends to recall the person when work again becomes available. Employees are typically able to collect unemployment benefits while on an unpaid layoff, and frequently an employer will allow employees to maintain benefit coverage for a defined period of time as an incentive to remain available for recall.

What should I do if I was in close contact with someone with COVID-19 while they were ill but I am not sick?

You should monitor your health for fever, cough and shortness of breath during the 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. You should not go to work or school, and should avoid public places for 14 days.