PEI Work Isolation for Essential Worker Close Contacts (Test-to-stay)
The purpose of this policy is to support the provision of essential services in PEI. As COVID-19 case numbers and community outbreaks rise, the number of people and workers required to self-isolate also increases and essential services may be impacted. This requires a shift in the management of workers who are exposed to COVID-19 cases, while protecting the health and safety of the workers and Islanders. Where possible, essential workers and workplaces should support the provision of essential services through alternate means (e.g. employees working remotely while in isolation, etc.).
In the event that essential services would be impacted because of essential workers isolating as close contacts, with the approval of the Chief Public Health Officer or designate, organizations may apply for essential workers to be eligible for the Work Isolation for Essential Worker Close Contacts (test-to-stay) policy.
Permitting workers in isolation to return to work should only be done as a last resort and only when:
- The worker is an asymptomatic close contact of an individual that tested positive for COVID-19. This application is not permitted for workers isolating because they tested positive for COVID 19.
- The interruption of the service would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population or the service is essential to basic societal functioning.
- The worker’s role in providing the service must be essential and cannot be provided through other means (e.g. remote, other staff, etc.).
This policy and application form are for when at least one essential worker has been identified as a close contact at an organization. Applications received where no one at the workplace has been identified as a close contact will not be processed.
The decision by a workplace to permit an individual in isolation to work should not be taken lightly. This is a harm reduction approach, but it is not without risk. Employers should be aware that bringing workers in isolation back into the workplace presents a risk to other employees and patrons, and could impact the ongoing operations of the business.
By applying, you acknowledge the risks of proceeding.
Work-Isolation and Testing
What is work-isolation?
Work isolation is when someone is authorized to leave mandatory isolation to go to work. For the purposes of this policy the following guidelines apply:
- While at the workplace, the worker must wear a mask, be physically distant from other staff and the public, practice hand hygiene, preferably be working in a separate area, and follow all other public health measures applicable to their workplace.
- If the worker must have essential interactions within six feet with other workers or the public, they must wear a mask and maintain distancing where possible
- When not at work, the worker must self-isolate, and they must go straight to work and then home (information on self-isolation is available online).
- Where necessary, individuals who are work isolating can use curbside pick-up and drive-thru food purchases on their way to or from work or during the work day. Entering retail stores is not permitted.
- The worker must be tested as outlined in the policy and monitor for symptoms. If any symptoms develop, they are not permitted to enter the workplace and must go to a testing clinic for a molecular COVID-19 test (ID Now or PCR).
Testing requirements for essential worker close contact work-isolation:
Following approval, an essential worker who is identified as a close contact can return to work on work-isolation for a period of four (4) days if fully vaccinated, or seven (7) days if not fully vaccinated. The worker must remain asymptomatic and follow a daily testing schedule:
- PCR or ID Now molecular test as soon as possible and if negative,
- if fully vaccinated: repeat PCR or ID Now molecular testing on days 2 and 4
- if not fully vaccinated: repeat PCR or ID Now molecular testing on days 2, 4, and 7
- Antigen testing on days without a PCR/ID Now test until last day of work-isolation
If the worker develops symptoms OR tests positive on a rapid antigen test, they must isolate at home until they receive a negative result from a PCR/ID Now test and their symptoms are improving (if symptomatic).
Antigen tests should be performed at home in case the test result is positive. Please note antigen tests are not intended for use by family members of worker.
Any worker who tests positive on a PCR or molecular test, must self-isolate and not return to work until they are deemed recovered.
How to apply?
If an essential worker is identified as a close contactm, in order to be considered eligible under this policy, the organization must:
- Have an operational plan outlining the preventative COVID-19 measures in place at the workplace
- Have a list of the services provided by the organization that are essential that would be potentially impacted
- Explain the role of the essential worker(s) as it relates to maintaining the essential service and why this cannot be completed by other means (e.g. remote, other staff, etc.)
- Submit an application to the Chief Public Health Office (via webform – link at bottom of page) from a person with authority to do so and to commit the organization to following the policy
- Have received approval in writing by the Chief Public Health Officer or designate to implement the policy.
- Have received agreement from the essential worker(s) to participate in this work isolation policy
The organization is also responsible for:
- Maintaining existing public health measures such as symptom screening, masking and PPE, hand hygiene, physical distancing, and outbreak procedures. This policy does not replace these measures
- Keeping records on the number of antigen tests used and the number of presumptive positives, for one month, to be provided upon request to the Chief Public Health Office. Employers are not required to collect proof that employees have completed the rapid antigen tests at home
- Cooperating with the Chief Public Health Office in the event of any further exposure or outbreak investigations.
- Having a contingency plan in case workers involved in testing in accordance with this policy test positive and are required to self-isolate.
Any worker who is a deemed a close contact must also agree to participate in this work isolation policy and must follow the measures outlined in this policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an essential workplace and who is considered an essential workers?
A service is essential if the interruption of the service would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population or if it is vital to basic societal functioning. Examples of essential workers include:
- Workers essential to the transportation of essential goods
- Workers essential to critical infrastructure and services (i.e. utilities, communications, and transportation)
- Workers essential for providing municipal services that impact public safety, such as snow clearing and garbage collection
- Emergency first responders including police, military, paramedics, firefighters and emergency dispatchers
- Workers that provide services essential to the health and welfare of individuals and animals, where no other business can provide the service
As an organization, how do I access rapid antigen tests for my employees who are close contacts and approved to work isolate under this policy?
If you do not already have a source of rapid antigen tests, with approval of your application, you will be connected to a source for rapid antigen tests.
How long does it take to review and approve the application?
The objective is to respond in 24 hours, but it depends on the volume of applications, how complete the application is and how clearly it demonstrates that it meets the requirements of the policy.
Does an organization need to submit an operational plan?
You must have an operational plan outlining the preventative COVID-19 measures, such as physical distancing and masking, but you are not required to submit it to the Chief Public Health Office. It must be provided in the instance of an inspection.
If I am an essential worker close contact approved to participate in this policy, do I have to report to anyone?
You must report the number of antigen kits used and report if you test presumptive positive to your employer, who will keep a record and submit to the Chief Public Health Office upon request. If you test positive for COVID-19 at a testing clinic you will be contacted by Public Health Nursing. If you test positive, advise the Public Health Nursing staff that you were participating in this program.
Who do I contact if I have questions?
If you have questions, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I apply for my organization to have an approval for my essential staff in advance (i.e. in case someone becomes a close contact or there is a positive case in the workplace)?
No, this application is for situations where workers have been identified as close contacts. To prepare in advance, you can review the policy, identify the essential services your organization provides and which workers are essential, and discuss the policy with your staff .