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Employees calling out sick with COVID-19 affects local businesses

Tim Mossholder

The latest surge of coronavirus cases fueled by the Omicron variant has caused many employees to call out sick, leaving some local businesses with temporary closures and hour changes due to staff shortages.

The Pismo Beach Athletic Club re-opened this Monday after closing the gym for a week due to a staff member testing positive for the virus.

And, the Sunset Drive-In in San Luis Obispo stopped showing movies for two days due to staff shortages from employees out sick with COVID.

Tom Cuddy with SLO County Public Health said these businesses are closing voluntarily.

“These are businesses that we applaud for doing the right thing,” Cuddy said.

Cuddy said the California Department of Industrial Relations released new guidance this week on what employees and businesses should know when a worker tests positive for COVID.

“We want to keep our economy open, and at the same time we want to keep our community members safe and healthy," Cuddy said. "That’s what this guidance does, and we hope it strikes that balance."

Based on the guidance, any employee who tests positive for COVID must be excluded from the workplace for at least five days.

Cuddy said an employee can return to work after day five if they do not have symptoms and test negative.

“If a worker declines to test, or cannot test, they can return to work after 10 days,” Cuddy said.

For businesses, after an employee tests positive, they have to notify other employees who may have been exposed.

“Generally, if you have been exposed we recommend you get a test 2 to 3 days after the exposure,” Cuddy said.

When workers are required to be excluded from work due to work related COVID-19 exposure, they must be paid exclusion pay.

Some exceptions do apply, such as if an employee can work from home or they are receiving disability pay.

Cuddy said if a business is lost or needs guidance on what to do, to give the health department a call.

“We have a great website at where we have a wealth of information for businesses to tap into for help on this guidance," Cuddy said. "They can also try our phone assistance center at 805-781-5500 — it is open Monday through Friday from 8-5p.m.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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