Return to Work Process

Return to Work Process

After having COVID-19 or being exposed to someone with COVID-19 can generate many questions and confusion.  When in doubt, contact your primary care manager (PCM) for the best recommendations.  Much of this guidance is from the CDC website, but it has been integrated into our local policies here at Wright Patterson AFB.

There are many different populations of base: critical infrastructure, general active duty, DoD civilians (GS and contractors) and the processes for these are handled differently.

Returning to work flowchart

Download here

Returning to work after quarantine or isolation

  • Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others.  Quarantined members do not have symptoms. Exposure is determined by our contact tracing process.  WPAFB follows current CDC recommendations for quarantine: 14 days from the last exposure from the positive patient.
    • After the 14 days has transpired, and you are still asymptomatic, please call your leadership or supervision to be returned to work. 
    • If you, or one of your employees, develops symptoms while they are in quarantine – you should contact your PCM for guidance and referral for testing.
  • Special Populations in Quarantine
    • Critical Infrastructure: Security Forces, Child Development Center Employees, or Healthcare Workers quarantine requires a test at day 12 of your 14 day quarantine to ensure that you are safe to go back to work.  If the test results on day 13, you still must wait the entire 14 day quarantine period.
  • Isolation separates someone who is infected with the virus from others. You isolate when you are sick, or you have symptoms. It is also considered isolation if you have a positive COVID-19 test even if you don’t have symptoms.  Learn when you can be around others after being sick.
    • Make sure your leadership/supervision knows your situation and that you have been entered on the UCC tracker.
    • If you think or know you have COVID-19, and I have symptoms you can be with others after:
      • At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
      • At least 24 hours with no fever without fever reducing medication and
      • Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving – please note that loss of taste and smell may take months to recover
      • Severe cases may require longer, consult with your primary care provider
      • If you are immunocompromised (weakened immune system) you may need to isolate longer than 10 days; consult with your primary care provider.
    • If you test positive for COVID-19, and have no symptoms you can return to work after:
      • 10 days have passed since the date you had your positive test and you continue to have no symptoms

Differences between Isolation vs Quarantine

Special Populations In Isolation

  • GS Employees and Contractors: Will need to be cleared by their PCM and 88th MDG Occupational Medicine.
Protect yourself and others in the workplace


  • Stay home when needed
  • Monitor your health
    • Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
    • This is especially important if you are running essential errands, going into the office or workplace, and in settings where it may be difficult to keep a physical distance of 6 feet.
    • Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
    • Don’t take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
  • Wear a mask
    • Wear a mask in public settings where staying 6 feet apart (about two arms length) is not possible. Interacting without wearing a mask increases your risk of getting infected.
    • Wearing a mask does not replace the need to practice social distancing.
  • Social distance in shared spaces
    • Maintain at least 6 feet of distance between you and others. COVID-19 spreads easier between people who are within 6 feet of each other.
    • Keeping distance from other people is especially important for people who are at increased risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with certain medical conditions.
    • Indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces where it might be harder to keep people apart and there’s less ventilation.
    • Avoid close contact with others on your commute to work, if possible. Consider biking, walking, driving either alone or with other members of your household. Learn how to protect yourself when using transportation to commute to work.
  • Wash your hands often
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. If your hands are visibly dirty, use soap and water over hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth if you haven’t washed your hands.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
    • Remember to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues into no-touch trash cans and immediately wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid sharing objects and equipment
    • Avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If you cannot avoid using someone else’s workstation, clean and disinfect before and after use.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, like workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs. Dirty surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water before disinfection.
    • To disinfect, use these EPA-registered disinfectants external icon.
    • For additional cleaning resources in specific situations, follow the guide that can be found here.

(For people who are possibly exposed to see if they will get sick)

  • STAY HOME except to get emergent medical care. DO NOT go to work, school, or public areas. DO NOT use public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • SEPARATE YOURSELF from other people in your home. DO NOT share personal items. Stay in a separate room, use a separate bathroom.
  • SELF MONITOR for symptoms as described in “COVID-19 Symptoms” on the flowchart. If symptoms occur, contact the Appointment Line at 937-522-2778 for 88 MDG beneficiaries or your regular physician if you are not.
  • QUARANTINE* lasts 14 days from the possible exposure. You cannot “test out” of QUARANTINE. The timer “resets” to ISOLATION timing if symptoms develop. All quarantined individuals are expected to telework as able and as their occupation permits.
  • RETURN TO WORK after quarantine: after the 14 days notify your leadership that you have completed your quarantine, have been symptom free, and are ready to come back to work.  If you are identified as a close contact, and the person you were exposed to tests negative for COVID-19, you can return to work

*The CDC recently updated quarantine options with 10-day and 7-day durations.  Any option to shorten quarantine risks being less effective than the currently recommended 14-day quarantine. The 14-day quarantine remains the gold standard and should be used in order to maximally mitigate COVID-19 spread both in and out of the workplace.

(For symptomatic or confirmed POSITIVE COVID-19 cases)

  • All of the above QUARANTINE PROCEDURES plus:
  • If unable to isolate or you will have to share your bathroom, bedroom, or food preparation area, then the other members of the home will have to be on quarantine IAW CLOSE CONTACT.
  • ISOLATION lasts until ALL of the following criteria are met: Cleared by PCM, no fever for 24 hours (without meds), symptoms improving, 10 days from positive test collection date or symptom onset, whichever is shorter.
  • Returning to Work after Isolation:
    ‚Äč- Civilians not empaneled at the 88 MDG will need to be coordinate care thru their own medical provider.  When their PCM feels the member is able to return to work, the member will coordinate their return to work through 88 MDG Occupational Medicine Clinic.  Appropriate care documentation (return to work note) may be required for review by Occupational Medicine. Call for an appointment at the 88 MDG Occupational Clinic for RTW coordination at 937-255-4877/937-255-4829.
    - Active Duty or those with medical benefits at the 88 MDG will follow guidance from Public Health on isolating.  When the member meets the criteria above, they should engage with their PCM for return to work recommendations with a virtual encounter.  Call for an appointment at the 88 MDG Appointment line at 937-522-2778.


  • CLOSE CONTACT as defined by the CDC is: “Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”
  • FALSE NEGATIVE – due to current testing characteristics, a positive test is almost always accurate, while a negative test may not be. A PCM may be able to clear a symptomatic member with a negative test to return to work without a full 10 day isolation. However, there is no guarantee that the member does not have COVID-19. This makes MASK WEAR, HANDWASHING, and PHYSICAL DISTANCING extremely important for all work areas.
  • Dorm Residents – 88 MDG Public Health will reach out to you and arrange formal ISOLATION and QUARANTINE accommodations at base lodging. 
  • Civilians not empaneled at the 88 MDG may be entitled to COVID testing due to their position or mechanism of exposure. Care will need to be coordinated by the patient and return to work coordinated though be coordinated through Occupational Medicine.
  • Testing can take anywhere from several hours to 4 days depending on supplies/staffing. Any patient awaiting test results should be in either ISOLATION or QUARANTINE.
  • Note: The above guidance is based on the 16 OCT 2020 DoD COVID-19 Practice Management Guide, the DoD Force Health Protection Guidance Supplements 5, 8, 9, and 13, the 17 JUN 2020 DAF Force Health Protection Guidance Addendum to Supplement 9, and current CDC guidance. It may change, as these sources are updated or rescinded.