Reporting COVID-19 symptoms to Occupational Health Program is key to community safety

With COVID-19 (coronavirus) expected to remain a major factor in planning and carrying out UT Austin operations, the UT Austin Occupational Health Program (OHP) in Human Resources is urging all employees who are experiencing COVID-19 (coronavirus) symptoms regardless of test results to reach out to OHP immediately. OHP provides direction and support to these employees that helps protect the campus community as well as the individual’s personal contacts.

In its May 20, 2020, email to all UT Austin employees, OHP provided guidance that applies to staff and faculty who test positive, are presumed positive for COVID-19, test negative for COVID-19 but have symptoms of the virus, or were asked to get tested as a close contact of someone positive with COVID-19. It also applies to employees who have not been tested but have COVID-19 symptoms. The OHP guidance applies to all employees, regardless of whether they are teleworking or working on campus.

As OHP explains, employees who test positive for COVID-19 or are presumed positive should report to OHP and to their supervisor. OHP monitors these individuals daily using an online reporting tool and helps support them by providing information on leave options such as those available under the  Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

In addition, when an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 or is presumed positive reports to OHP, the program works with that individual to identify UT community members who may have come into contact with the employee. Then, OHP reaches out to those contacts with guidance on how to self-quarantine, self-isolate or self-monitor as appropriate.

OHP recognizes the importance of privacy to reporting employees when reaching out to contacts. The program follows privacy guidelines that allow the university to keep our workplace and your coworkers safe while still protecting individual privacy as much as possible, according to the OHP May email.

Those employees who test negative for COVID-19 and have symptoms should report their test to OHP. The program advises these individuals against returning to any work on campus until they are free of symptoms for 72 hours and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms began. Self-isolation should be practiced during that time.

According to OHP, self-isolation means that people with symptoms of COVID-19, with or without a positive test, separate from others, stay home and away from others who share a residence to prevent the spread of the virus.

What about employees who have symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19, but haven’t been tested? The key message for all of these scenarios is that OHP wants any employee experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to reach out to the program, regardless of whether the individual has been tested.

Employees can be tested for COVID-19 through UT Health Austin (UTHA). Information is available by visiting the UTHA COVID-19 web page.

OHP reminds employees that any staff or faculty member who is affected by COVID-19 and is on UT Select insurance now has 100% coverage of the cost of medically necessary COVID-19 testing and treatment with in-network providers, including UTHA, with no out-of-pocket costs. More information is available at the UT System Office of Employee Benefits COVID-19 web page.

Regarding leave for employees affected by COVID-19, new federal leave provisions are now available. OHP advises employees to visit the FFCRA Paid Leave web page. They may also contact their Human Resources representative for help with understanding the FFCRA leave provisions. The Human Resources coronavirus web page offers additional information and resources for employees.