CDC’s New Interim Guidance for Critical Infrastructure Workers Is Dangerous for Workers and the Community and Should Be Revoked.

CWA has joined NationalCOSH, other unions and worker advocates on a letter demanding the CDC revoke their new interim guidance document for critical infrastructure workers.

The document, issued on April 8, 2020, is dangerous for workers, recommending that asymptomatic workers who have had close contact and known exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (at home or elsewhere) be allowed to continue to work, instead of being quarantined, if the exposed worker is asymptomatic as long as certain precautions are taken. This is the same, dangerous recommendation the CDC made for healthcare workers in previous guidance issued on March 7, 2020. 

We need BETTER protections, not fewer precautions for CWA members who maintain our country's basic infrastructure. The new guidance is negligent, backwards, counter-productive, and ignores the science of transmission of COVID-19. If this guidance is enacted the likely outcome will be far more workers sick and more workers dead.

This is one more example of the complete mismanagement at the federal level regarding the response to the pandemic which continues to create chaos and increased risk for workers and the community.

According to the CDC’s recommendations, exposed, but asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic critical infrastructure workers can remain at work as long as the employer ensures the following:

  • Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and monitor for symptoms before the worker enters the facility;
  • As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms the employee should self-monitor under the supervision of the employer’s occupational health program;
  • The employee should wear a face mask at all times for 14 days since the exposure;
  • The employee should social distance for 6’ from others;
  • The employer should clean and disinfect work spaces.

Here is what is so terribly wrong with the CDC recommendations.

  1. The science has shown, and the CDC knows and recognizes on their website, that a person can be exposed, infected and positive for COVID-19, but asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic for up to 14 days and can still infect others before showing symptoms. If a worker cannot be tested to know whether they are COVID-19 positive, then the best practice is for self-quarantine with full pay and without any attendance points.
  2. Conducting a temperature check will not identify the person who is infected before they are showing symptoms, like a fever.
  3. Most workplaces do not have an occupational health program to monitor employees.
  4. Facemasks are not respirators. Even medical procedure or surgical masks which must meet certain standards are not respirators. Homemade masks have no such standards. Facemasks do not prevent exposure and infection. They don’t seal around the mouth and nose and they do not filter out small infectious particles.
  5. Social distancing of maintaining a 6’ distance between people ignores the science of airborne transmission of COVID-19. It may reduce risk of exposure, but does not eliminate it, particularly in indoor environments.

CWA will continue to fight against any employer, Federal, state, or local policies that harm members and lead to the continuing spread of COVID-19. CWA leadership will fight for the necessary workplace protections despite dangerous guidance from the CDC and other agencies.

Micki Siegel de Hernández, CWA Deputy Director for Occupational Safety and Health, spoke out against the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Critical Infrastructure Workers on a newscast on KPFA 94.1 FM in California broadcast on Sunday, April 12, 2020. The news report about the CDC guidance is about 12 minutes into the broadcast. Listen here: