A confirmed COVID-19 outbreak is defined as two or more cases in a facility or group (does not include groups that make up a household) that occurred within a 14 day period with evidence that COVID-19 is spreading within the setting. A public health investigation determines if an outbreak is occurring. There does not have to be extensive spread occurring to meet the definition of an outbreak.

Public health follows up with any facility or business that an employee worked while infectious. These individuals are identified through routine case investigations and direct reports from businesses. Public health works to identify outbreaks early and ensure that steps to reduce or prevent further spread of COVID-19 are implemented as quickly as possible to limit additional spread within the facility or group. 

These steps include: 

  • Ensuring that employees are screened and excluded from work if they are sick or had close contact with known COVID-19 cases
  • Referring sick employees for evaluation and/or testing
  • Conducting contact tracing, which includes notification and quarantine of anyone who was in close contact with known COVID-19 cases
  • Ensuring that proper isolation and return to work policies are in place
  • Implementing additional COVID-19 safety precautions (cleaning/disinfecting, physical distancing, PPE usage, etc)

For the latest data on local outbreak, please visit our COVID-19 data dashboard.

Guidance for Employers

Prevent Outbreaks

COVID-19 Cases and Exposures in Employees

When a single employee has confirmed or probable COVID-19:

  • Contact the health department right away for guidance if you know an employee does or may have COVID-19. Local businesses are not required to report cases of COVID-19 in their employees to the health department but may do so voluntarily using this form.
    • You may not need to shut down the workplace. The health department will help with decisions about closing.
  • Send any sick employee home immediately.
    • Employees with symptoms similar to those for COVID-19 are encouraged to follow-up with a healthcare provider and get tested for COVID-19 using a viral test. 
    • Employees confirmed to have COVID-19 should stay at home until they have finished isolation. 
      • Someone can leave isolation 10 days after their symptoms first started, if their symptoms have improved, and they have been 24 hours fever-free without using fever-reducing medicines (such as Ibuprofen). 
      • Any worker who tests positive using a viral test but does not have symptoms must isolate for 10 days from the date of their test. If they develop symptoms during isolation, isolation time may need to be extended.  
      • It is not recommended to re-test people who have already been confirmed to have COVID-19 after their isolation period is over or require a negative test to return to work.
  • Inform fellow employees that they may have been exposed while maintaining the sick employee's confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    • The Health Department can help with this.
  • Clean and disinfect according to CDC or CDPHE cleaning guidance for COVID-19.

When an employee(s) has been exposed to someone does or may have COVID-19 (at work or elsewhere):

  • Contact and work with the Health Department to determine who has potentially been exposed to the worker(s) with COVID-19.
    • Close contact or exposure is defined as being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes with a person who has COVID-19 starting 48 hours before their symptoms started or, if the person does not have symptoms, from the date the test was collected.
    • Depending on the workplace environment and types of person-to-person interactions, high-risk "close contact" exposures can occur in fewer than 10 minutes. 
    • Close contact isn't necessarily 15 consecutive minutes. Someone who was close to a sick person multiple times during a work shift may have been exposed and need to be quarantined.
  • Workers with recent exposure to someone with confirmed COVID-19 should quarantine at home for 14 days starting from the last date they were in close contact with that person and monitor themselves for symptoms.
  • If someone who is exposed wants to get tested but don’t have symptoms, they should wait 7-14 days since the last date they were with a person with COVID-19.
    • Someone who was exposed can become sick with COVID-19 up to 14 days after their exposure. Getting tested too soon may result in a negative test result but the person could still get sick after the test was done.
    • After being exposed, a negative test does not clear someone to end their quarantine period early, nor does it guarantee that a person will not develop COVID-19 in the future.
  • If workers develop symptoms, they should get tested and begin isolation. 
    • Isolation period is at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset, plus at least 24 hours with no fever and with symptoms resolving.

Testing Considerations

Be aware of the limitations of COVID-19 testing in workplace decisions. Testing by itself cannot “clear” employees to work.

There are two main types of COVID-19 tests.

  • Viral test (RT-PCR/nucleic acid or antigen detection) is the only way to confirm if someone currently has a COVID-19 infection. 
  • Antibody (serological) tests check a person’s blood to look for antibodies, which may determine if they had COVID-19 in the past. Antibody tests do not test for current COVID-19 infection and do not prove that someone is immune to COVID-19. Do not use antibody tests to prove immunity, clear employees to work, or make decisions about grouping people in congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities.