Division Title

​COVID Assessment & Testing

What To Do If You Test Positive?
Risk based work restriction (e.g. removal from onsite work) recommendations are complex and based on many factors including, but not limited to, whether someone is up to date with vaccination, has immunocompromising medical conditions that could contribute to longer infectious times, exposure durations and more. Thus, the guidance below is general and it is possible that based on these factors, someone who tested positive may be removed from work up to 10 days or possibly longer due to their specific situation.  

Healthcare positions are subject to different work based restrictions which are determined  in conjunction with the hospital operating status (e.g. whether it is in contingency, crisis or normal) and those mentioned above. Specifics on healthcare worker policies are located on the CDC website

In the event that you receive a positive test through at-home testing, community-based testing, or through NIH testing facilities NIH personnel will be required to do the following, dependent upon your work status:

All Building 10 Staff and All Other Healthcare Staff Who Work at an NIH Facility


  • If you work in Building 10 or in a healthcare position at an NIH facility and receive a positive test through at-home testing and community-based testing, stay home and submit this online form to the Occupational Medical Service (OMS). If you received a positive test at NIH, OMS will automatically receive this information.
  • Stay home for 10 days (per the CDC Interim Guidance for Healthcare Workers). You may be contacted by OMS with altered return guidance based on their risk-based work assessment. If you are not contacted by Day 10, you may return to work on Day 11 if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication). If you have a fever, continue to stay home until 24 hours after your fever resolves.

Staff that report to work at NIH facilities (non-healthcare).

  • If your test was performed in the Community submit this online form to the Occupational Medical Service (OMS) before returning to an NIH facility. OMS may schedule you for a confirmatory test.
  • If you had symptoms, you may end isolation after 5 days if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving. If you have a fever, continue to stay home until 24 hours after your fever resolves.
  • If you did not have symptoms, you may end isolation after 5 full days after your positive test.
  • From Days 6–10 while onsite you must:
    • Wear a surgical mask rated as an ASTM-3. Eating and drinking must be conducted alone, as the mask may not be removed for any reason in the presence of others.
    • Always maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet.
    • Report any resumption of fever, other symptoms, or new symptoms to your supervisor and OMS immediately. In this case, you must leave work and resume isolation as soon as safely feasible.
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Follow any other safety guidance that your supervisor or OMS requires based on the specifics of your duties and work location.
    • If you were severely ill with COVID-19 or are immunocompromised, you should isolate for at least 10 days. Consult your personal physician before ending isolation.
  • Any follow up PCR testing may be positive for 3 months after your infection. Unless you are symptomatic do not re-test at NIH during this period.

For Local Remote or Remote Staff (not reporting onsite to NIH facilities)

  • For staff on local remote or remote work, submit the online form to OMS. If there are other NIH staff in your household that work onsite they need to follow the post exposure guidance above, contact OMS immediately and schedule testing.
  • Stay home for 5 days (if your case is severe or you are immunocompromised you should consult your physician on how long to stay home).
  • Follow CDC guidance for testing, isolation and masking post infection.
  • Do not schedule a follow-up test at NIH.
  • Any follow up PCR testing may be positive for 3 months. Do not re-test at NIH during this period unless instructed to do so by OMS.

What Happens When Someone Tests Positive?

Every staff member (contract and federal) who receives a community-based COVID-19 test result indicating current infection must report that result to OMS through the OMS COVID-19 screening questionnaire. Personnel tested at the NIH testing sites are automatically reported to the system. Contact investigations (CI) are conducted upon receipt of report of a NIH worker newly diagnosed with COVID-19. OMS initiates the contact tracing process by calling the individual (index case) to discuss the result and conduct the index case interview the same evening. This interview aims to determine when the affected worker may have been infectious and whether others may have been at risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2. The interviewer will collect details such as: where the person worked; what NIH facilities were visited; use of protective measures; and, who they came into contact with while working on site. Contact tracers confirm the employee’s account with the supervisor. If indicated, they obtain relevant contact information, and initiate the risk assessment of contacts as soon as possible. The utmost care is taken not to identify the worker to others in the workplace. Within 24 hours of receipt of a new positive test result by OMS, an OMS clinician provides a form to the supervisor stating a general health condition prevents affected staff from coming to the worksite or into contact with others. Contact case interviews aim to estimate the level of risk of exposure and provide recommendations to contain further spread (see section below). Definitions and descriptions of the different risk levels are included in Appendix II - Exposure Risk Assessment Definitions.

Information from contact tracing is used to notify specific personnel who may have had high- risk (i.e., greater than 15 minutes, within 6 feet, and wearing appropriate PPE) contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. It is also used to notify personnel who may have been in a location where a COVID-19 patient was present. These notifications improve awareness for potentially exposed personnel so that they may make educated choices regarding their personal health monitoring and testing. All notifications are made ensuring that no personal health information is shared. For all high-risk exposures, notifications are made using phone calls and e-mail. For healthcare settings, email, postings on NIH internet and intranet sites, and signs posted in affected locations will be used for personnel who may have been in an area where a positive case was present but did not have high-risk contact with those personnel.

Patient care and patient care support staff are excluded from returning to their onsite workspace for the minimum duration of their infectious or at-risk period, as required by the OSHA ETS. Institutional policies may extend the exclusion period to protect vulnerable patient and employee groups. Guidance for others experiencing high and low risk exposures is provided below in the section “Exposures to SARS-CoV-2”. Decisions regarding an employee’s return-to-work after COVID-19-related medical workplace removal are made by OMS providers. Removal from the workplace can be shortened for persons presumptively positive for COVID-19 if they have an appropriately timed negative PCR COVID-19 test. NIH provides this testing at no cost to employees. An appropriately timed test means a test at least 3 to 5 days after high-risk exposure to a COVID-19 positive person.

The Safer Federal Workforce FAQs state that employees isolated after a positive COVID -19 diagnosis may request sick leave if they are unable to telework. Weather and Safety leave is no longer available for this purpose. Employees may also request accrued annual leave or other forms of paid or unpaid leave. https://www.saferfederalworkforce.gov/faq/leave/

All work associated COVID-19 cases are logged within 24 hours. The COVID-19 log contains, for each instance, all information required by OSHA under the OSHA Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness standard (29 CFR 1904), including the employee's name, one form of contact information, occupation, location where the employee worked, the date of the employee's last day at the workplace, the date of the positive test for, or diagnosis of, COVID-19, and the date the employee first had one or more COVID-19 symptoms, if any were experienced. This information is a confidential medical record. However, personnel may request their record by contacting the NIH Occupational Medical Service. A redacted version of all cases is also available upon request.