On Communicating That an Employee Tested Positive for COVID-19

Thom Weidlich 03.19.20


At this point in the coronavirus crisis, enough companies and organizations have had to communicate that an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19 that best practices are becoming evident. We highlight a few of these statements.

Common information in these messages include:

  • The employee’s medical condition;
  • Best wishes for the employee’s speedy recovery;
  • Where the employee worked;
  • That where the employee worked has been or is being been cleaned;
  • That the organization has notified proper authorities;
  • That the organization has a business-continuity plan in place;
  • That the organization is continuing to monitor the pandemic.

One thing that is not included is the employee’s name.

On March 15, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that its first employee tested positive. “A uniformed supervisor assigned to our Pacific Division exhibited flu-like symptoms around March 5th,” the LAPD said. “He went home and sought medical treatment including being tested for COVID-19.  Those results returned positive today.”

The department added important information, including that the officer’s condition was already improving, he was expected to recover fully, the cleaning and disinfecting of his area would be finished by end of day, no other personnel experienced symptoms, and it would continue to monitor the situation.


The associate is receiving medical care, and her condition is improving. We wish her a speedy recovery.

— Walmart

On March 12, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing sent a message to employees about the coronavirus. He noted that several colleagues had contracted it, but thus far only mildly. He wished them a speedy recovery.

On March 10, in a message to U.S. associates, Walmart, in the name of several high-level executives including CEO John Furner, disclosed that a worker in its Cynthiana, Kentucky, store had tested positive. “The associate is receiving medical care, and her condition is improving,” they wrote. “We wish her a speedy recovery.”

Staying Home

Walmart reiterated its policy of employees staying home if they are not feeling well. It also announced that any employee who gets the disease will receive two weeks of pay. (The main point of the message was to lay out the company’s policies on COVID-19.)

In a statement on March 9, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that the agency confirmed the day before that an employee at its Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley tested positive for COVID-19.

Although exposure there was limited, NASA mandated that employees in the facility work from home temporarily. It said it was investigating with whom the employee had been in contact, but didn’t say much further about his or her situation.

This week, on March 17, Bridenstine announced all NASA employees would work from home. He noted that “a limited amount of employees have tested positive for COVID-19.”

So as we can see, companies and organizations are learning to communicate this negative news. Here’s hoping they won’t have to communicate it very often.

Photo Credit: oFFsoRRy/Shutterstock

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