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monkeypox outbreak for employers

Employer Advisory: Responding to the Monkeypox Outbreak

By Steven C. DePalma

On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” and issued Temporary Recommendations in relation to the outbreak of monkeypox. Soon thereafter, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a state disaster emergency declaration and the New York State Health Department called monkeypox an “imminent threat to public health.” Recently, on July 30, 2022, officials in New York City declared a public health emergency due to the spread of the monkeypox virus. As of July 29, 2022, New York recorded 1,345 cases according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

How is Monkeypox Transmitted?

At the time of this article, Monkeypox is known to be transmitted through close contact with another infected person, contaminated materials or an infected animal. However, unlike COVID-19, that can be spread through the air, it is believed that monkeypox is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. As a result, with the exception of the healthcare industry and persons that engage in close contact with the public, monkeypox is currently viewed as a public health hazard and not a workplace health hazard. Nevertheless, employers are recommended to track CDC guidance on monkeypox and evaluate current policies and reinforce certain health and safety protocols adopted, and likely still in place, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similar to COVID-19, employees that contract monkeypox should not come to the office or worksite. Current data suggest people can spread monkeypox from the time symptoms start until all symptoms have resolved, including full healing of the rash with formation of a fresh layer of skin. Ideally, people with monkeypox would remain in isolation for the duration of illness, which typically lasts two to four weeks. Employees that had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox should monitor themselves closely for monkeypox symptoms for the 21-day incubation period.

Employers should also note that employees that either contract or are being treated for monkeypox may have certain federal and state law protections. For example, monkeypox can be considered a “serious” health condition subject to protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act. At this time, the risk to non-healthcare employees is low, but employers should continue to be informed and monitor any CDC guidance.

How We Can Help

Santomassimo Davis LLP specializes in being the premier Outside General Counsel™ to mid-cap businesses.  The issues discussed in this article are typical of those that we handle for clients as we help them navigate the legal and regulatory matters affecting their businesses.  For help with these issues or to learn more about the Outside General Counsel™ solution, please contact us today. 

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