TYLER, Texas (KETK) – As businesses re-open, East Texans are still trying to be cautious when they go out, but if you’re hoping to avoid anywhere a COVID-19 case has been reported, that will likely not be possible, because most places are not required to tell the public if there is one.
For months, KETK has been receiving tips from viewers, expressing concern about different businesses and restaurants having positive cases and not shutting down.
“We had an employee test positive,” said Samantha Mazer, who says her co-worker tested positive for the coronavirus.
As more people feel comfortable shopping, going out to eat, and returning back to work, some employees are now facing a new challenge.
Which is why we decided to dig into this, after Mazer expressed concern, stating her employer “did not come out and blatantly in the email to all of the staff and say hey, we had a positive COVID test.”
This leads us to the question, does an employer legally have to notify employees that someone tested positive?’
“That’s a hard question because there’s no law out there that says that an employer has to make that disclosure straight up,” explained Bill Hommel, with Hommel Law Firm.
By law, employers have to tell employees if a positive case is found in the workplace and to those who may have come into close contact with the positive worker. However, names, departments, and other personal information are protected by HIPAA laws.
According to the CDC, if someone does test positive, in most cases the business or facility will not shut down. Instead, they may take time for extra deep cleaning.
Hommel says OSHA provides guidelines for employers to provide a safe working place.
Guidelines for the public are not as simple. For example, the Foundry in Tyler created a voice message for customers, who heard “a member of our founder staff has received a positive COVID-19 test result. In order to be extra cautious and safe, we are closing to thoroughly clean.”
Now back open, many people want that same type of transparency at all consumer locations.
“They’re going to have to take reasonable efforts to make sure that they’re workplace is cleaned properly, and that any exposure to the infected employee is minimized,” explained Hommel.
While it’s not legally required for businesses to inform the public, they do have to notify Public Health Services.
Experts do say, by providing public statements and notices, stores can build trust with their customers.
On the other hand, there are times when people should be notified. For example, nursing homes must tell residents and their families if there is a positive case at the facility.
According to the Texas Education Agency, schools also have to tell parents if a positive case is found in staff or students.