my coworker knowingly exposed me to COVID-19

A reader writes:

I found out yesterday that the person who shares a desk cluster with me, who works five feet from me, tested positive for COVID-19. The thing that really pisses me off about it is that “Stacy” was very clearly showing symptoms and lying to everyone about it for the past two weeks, claiming that she had really bad allergies. When she started showing symptoms (coughing, sniffling, etc.) two weeks ago, I asked Stacy point-blank if she thought she might have it and urged her to go get a test just to be sure. I disclosed to her that I have a health condition which puts me in a higher risk category. She assured me that she had a long history of bad allergies and was not worried. I was suspicious still, because I know Stacy didn’t take COVID-19 seriously and I knew she wasn’t taking any precautions to protect herself, like masking or sanitizing things, and I’d heard that she’d been out to restaurants and bars, but I’m not her supervisor and I don’t know her very well. I did raise my concerns with our supervisor, who also spoke to her and confirmed to me that she told him she just had bad allergies.

Well, yesterday, Stacy comes back from lunch in tears, refusing to tell anyone what’s wrong as she packs up her stuff and says she’s leaving early and that I’ll be finishing the rest of our work by myself. I had no idea what was going on. Our supervisor came and notified me afterwards that she had apparently just received her positive test results. I am just incensed, honestly. She suspected that she had a highly infectious disease, got a test, came back to work without waiting for the results, lied to everyone for two weeks while doing nothing to protect me or anyone else, and then still refused to tell anyone when she got the results! She was just going to run out without saying anything to anyone! I even asked her what was wrong and she refused to tell me, the person she was most likely to have infected because I sit five feet from her and we share all our work supplies!

Our supervisor told me in confidence and, though I normally wouldn’t share confidential medical information, this is not a normal situation and I told everyone else in the office, without naming Stacy, so they could make informed decisions about their health. Management has since informed everyone and is having the office professionally cleaned.

For this and numerous other reasons it would take too long to get into, I don’t feel comfortable working with Stacy anymore. The company is huge and has multiple departments, divisions, and locations and, since I know I can’t really demand she be fired, I want to just transfer out of that office. To its credit, the company and upper management have been great and I have no real desire to leave the company at large. They’re giving me paid leave for the next week to wait for my test results and they say they’ll give me an additional two weeks of paid leave if I test positive.

This is my first serious corporate job and I honestly just don’t know what to do or what I even have a right to do. I do not want to continue working with Stacy. We are a two-person team that must work closely together to get our work done and I have to talk to her pretty much all day. I just don’t feel like I could ever have even a neutral working relationship with her ever again. I have an extreme amount of anger and resentment towards her right now. Should I make an HR complaint? Should I just ask my boss for a transfer? I’ve only been working here for a few months and I’m still on new hire probation, so do I even have any leeway to demand things? What do I say?

Wow, yes. It’s certainly possible that Stacy originally thought her symptoms were due to allergies, but the fact that she got tested says at some point she suspected it could be COVID-19 — and she kept coming to work and not saying anything to anyone (including the high-risk person sitting a few feet from her. I can excuse her not telling you right after her results because she may have understood her manager would be handling it (and at that point it was safer for her to get out of the office, not stick around to talk), but the rest of this is reckless and awful and you have every right to be angry.

As for what to do, you can absolutely talk to HR about the fact that you’d been concerned about Stacy’s symptoms but were assured by both her and your manager that you didn’t need to worry … and that you’re high-risk and you feel you were unnecessarily exposed when a more cautious approach by your company would have prevented it … and ask that they change their policy for people who are displaying symptoms of the virus.

Whether you can ask for a transfer so you’re not working with Stacy is trickier. It’s perfectly reasonable that you don’t want to continue working with her, but whether a transfer is an option depends on info like how easily your company transfers people and how well your skills line up with jobs that are currently open. If signs are good on both those fronts, it’s possible you could say to either your boss or HR, “I’m deeply upset that Stacy knowingly exposed me to COVID-19, even when I’d repeatedly raised concerns about her symptoms, and especially since I’m at high-risk if I get infected. Would it be possible for me to be considered for a transfer to a role like X or Y where I wouldn’t be working with her as closely?”

Whether or not to do that though — and whether or not it’s likely to be successful — depends on things like how much capital you’ve built during your few months there, how much your work is valued, and how flexible the company culture seems to be in general. There’s risk in saying you don’t want to work with someone, and especially when you’re new. The circumstances here make it more understandable than it typically would be, but there’s still a risk that you’ll look difficult or overly high-maintenance or like you’re overreacting. Because of that, if you raise it, I’d frame it as exploring whether a move is possible, as opposed to announcing you won’t work with Stacy again, period.

It might also be worth thinking about what you’d need to be able to work with Stacy again, in case a transfer isn’t possible. Would it help if you knew she had good cause to think it was allergies and just made an awful mistake? Or if you knew the company had a serious conversation with her about how she handled this? Or if you knew the company changed its policies and practices because of what happened? What if your desks were moved further apart or you even got your own space (something you might have the leverage for right now)?

Your answer might be “I just need to not work with her again, end of story” — and if so, that’s your prerogative, although it’s possible that could mean needing to leave your job to achieve it. But if you can figure out other ways you’d be able to move forward, that will open up additional options for a resolution you can live with.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 577 comments… read them below }

  1. CatPerson*

    That supervisor should be disciplined–and educated/trained–for not protecting the staff!

    1. Anon for this*

      What could the supervisor have done differently? It sounds like Stacy was lying to everyone, including the supervisor.

        1. Peachkins*

          Exactly. And told her she could return either after quarantining or with a negative test.

          1. JSPA*

            We don’t know her original sniffing and coughing was covid. She could have had allergies, had a negative test, then caught it. Nobody can be allowed to spritz bodily fluids in shared spaces, because “it’s something else, when I was tested” doesn’t mean, “it’s still not Covid-19, today, a week later.”

            1. Oh Behave!*

              I have allergies. I have been sniffling and coughing because of allergies. No other symptoms. So yes, it is possible she thought it was allergies.

              1. MommyMD*

                My asthma and allergies have been terrible. Not every sniffle or cough is Covid. OP can’t read Stacy’s mind and say she knew she had Covid. Her symptoms may have changed hence the need for testing. Obviously she was shocked, since she was crying. When I’m concerned about Covid exposure, I wear a mask. It’s not reasonable to say she will never work with her again because she picked up a virus. Especially if OP doesn’t get sick.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  When I have allergies I sneeze. So now when I’m around people, I wear a mask. (Side bonus for you: no more droplets to be cleaned off your computer monitor, phone, mirror…yes I sneeze a lot in some seasons.)
                  I figure my allergies won’t go away if I am asymptomatic with something contagious!

        2. Madeleine Matilda*

          Except she could have also legitimately just have allergies for part of this time before becoming infected so was she supposed to quarantine at home for all of the time she had allergies? Back in March someone wrote into AAM saying that she had allergies and of course people were giving her the side eye every time she sneezed or coughed. Alison’s advice at the time was to keep saying she had allergies.

          1. TootsNYC*

            then she can still go home and await the results of a test.

            this is not normal times; this is a pandemic with a disease we are still learning about and that has a much higher ability to really mess up not just our OP but the whole damned office.

            1. Bostonian*

              Yep. This isn’t normal times. Anyone with COVID-like symptoms (regardless of what the symptoms might be caused by: allergies, “just a cold”, screaming at the Xbox for 8 hours straight) should stay home. Whether that means WFH or having a leave policy in place.

              That should be company policy, but even if it weren’t, the manager has some authority to try to change conditions in some way to reduce the risk for OP.

              1. Katrinka*

                Not a lot of people can afford to stay home from work for two weeks. The new law only covers you if you know you’ve been exposed. Stacy may or may not have known. What the guidelines say to do if you are showing any symptoms is to contact your doctor. If Stacy did that and the doctor didn’t recommend/refer her for testing, she didn’t do anything wrong. In some states you can’t get a test without a doctor referral. If the company had a policy of requiring an employee to stay home, then the manager could have pushed that. Otherwise, there’s not a lot they can do if the is no company policy and/or a doctor isn’t recommending a test.

                When she got to the point of needing a test, however, she absolutely should have stayed home pending the results. And the manager should have sent her home as soon as they found out she’d taken a test. But, fromt he sounds of her previous behavior, I’m betting Stacy didn’t tell anyone she’d taken the test until she got the results. I also question the company’s policy for working in the office – were they requiring masks, social distancing, etc.? It sounds like maybe they weren’t and that is a big liability issue for them.

                As for the OP’s increased health risk, unless everyone knew about it, neither Stacy nor the manager nor anyone else in the company knew to take extra precautions. And even if they had been told at some point, OP would need to remind them, as that’s not the sort of thing anyone is likely to remember about an employee or coworker because it’s not affecting how they do the job under normal circumstances (I assume). It may not seem fair, but it is on OP to let the company and coworkers know if they are in a higher risk category and to communicate what that means – don’t come closer than 6 feet if you don’t have to, avoid touching things on OP’s desk, etc.

                1. ZB*

                  OP literally says in the first paragraph of the letter:

                  “When she started showing symptoms (coughing, sniffling, etc.) two weeks ago, I asked Stacy point-blank if she thought she might have it and urged her to go get a test just to be sure. I disclosed to her that I have a health condition which puts me in a higher risk category. She assured me that she had a long history of bad allergies and was not worried.”

                  Stacy most definitely did know that OP was at high risk.

                2. StrikingFalcon*

                  What the company could do is:

                  -allow (or preferably require) everyone who can work from home to work from home
                  -require everyone who comes to work to wear a mask
                  -provide physical barriers between workstations
                  -reduce sharing supplies between workstations as much as possible
                  -require anyone who is displaying symptoms to work from home/stay home and get a doctor’s note or negative test result before returning to the office
                  -require anyone awaiting test results to stay home

                  Yes, she thought it was allergies. But OP has confirmed that she could have worked from home, and that even if they couldn’t, the company could afford to pay for leave while awaiting results. And “we sent her to her doctor and he confirmed that a test is not necessary” is , while obviously not the standard we should be aiming for (which is readily available and rapid testing for anyone displaying symptoms), still way better than “sorry, she says she doesn’t have it so there’s nothing we can do.”

                3. Alice*

                  The guidelines about not coming closer than six feet are not just for high risk category people. They are for everyone.

                4. Elizabeth West*

                  But, fromt he sounds of her previous behavior, I’m betting Stacy didn’t tell anyone she’d taken the test until she got the results.

                  Judging from the OP’s description of her, I bet she also thought she wouldn’t get it.

                  I also question the company’s policy for working in the office – were they requiring masks, social distancing, etc.? It sounds like maybe they weren’t and that is a big liability issue for them.

                  Absolutely this. As a job seeker, I want a company that is taking this pandemic seriously, not just for my health but so they don’t get sued out of existence.

              2. Librarian1*

                Except that allergy symptoms don’t really overlap with covid symptoms (with a couple exceptions). So if I show up with itchy, water eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and general stuffiness, which are all signs of allergies, but most aren’t signs of covid, it doesn’t make sense to assume I have covid and I can’t take off for the entirety of allergy season.

                1. Sue3PO*

                  As a healthcare provider, early on in the pandemic I diagnosed allergies in a patient showing typical allergy symptoms. She then got a test due to a family member needing surgery of some kind, and we were both shocked to see that it was positive. COVID can absolutely look like allergies.

                2. Eva Luna*

                  It’s also entirely possible to have allergies and COVID at the same time. My dad did, and if not for some unrelated blood work he had done, he never would have known he’d been infected. (I don’t think any of us, including his doctor, would have dreamed that a 79-year-old asthmatic would be infected with COVID and remain asymptomatic.) The active infection test was negative, but the antibody test was positive.

          2. Luna*

            Could have asked if remotely working from home was an option. Not every place has this as an option, of course, but I think it would look good. You know you have allergies, and the symptoms of the virus are similar to that of a bad flu, cold, and/or alleriges, and you don’t want to risk writing off something serious as ‘just allergies’ because it doesn’t feel too different.

            My household had Corona. We were very fortunate to get milder cases, and we honestly thought both of us had just gotten a very bad cold/slight pneumonia because of recent travelling. In fact, when my mother showed the mild symptoms, which she at the time really thought was nothing but a cold beginning to break out, she was practically ordered to start working from home.

            1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

              Hi, OP here, I just want to clarify that the company does have WFH, and Stacey has been allowed to do it before in times of personal struggle for her. The company also has a leave policy that would have let her take emergency paid leave time, even if she was out of PTO, specifically for things like this. I would understand more if this wasn’t the case, but she has no excuse in my eyes.

              1. Katrinka*

                Does your company require masks or anything when you’re working in the office? She definitely should have worn one, even if she thought it was allergies. And IMO the manager could have told her to do so.

                1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

                  Management gave us masks, but did not make us wear them, so nobody did. I get that they’re somewhat to blame for this, as well.

              2. Madeleine Matilda*

                Since your company does offer WFH, perhaps the solution is for you to work from home when Stacy returns since it seems unlikely that she would take that option. At least if you WFH, you can protect yourself.

                1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

                  Unfortunately, my role is significantly different from hers. She can work from home, I can’t really, though I will ask if there’s any way I can be transitioned into another role where WFH is an option.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  @OP Oh okay. I hope you can transfer. Fingers crossed.

                  I hope this has been a wake-up call for the company. They need some protocols, pronto. This thing is not over by a long shot.

              3. Sylvan*

                What. You’re right, there’s no excuse. She came in when she could have stayed home, most likely knowing that she could be exposing you and other people to COVID.

              4. victimless*

                OP, while Stacy may not have acted optimally here, I don’t think it’s self-evident that she acted maliciously or knowingly exposed you to COVID-19. Please tone down the “Stacey’s victim” tagline a notch. You’re coming off as a tad unreasonable.

                1. Snarkastic*

                  If you are sick and have to get tested, you don’t come into work. You have to operate as if you have the virus.

                2. Darsynia*

                  I totally understand this perspective–up to the point at which she Stacey got a test and continued, Rand Paul style, to come in to work, touch things, and act like they didn’t suspect COVID while they waited for the test to come in.

                  After that, I can see how OP would re-evaluate everything Stacey did up to that point, including insisting her COVID-style symptoms were allergies (they could have been). It seems clear by the sequence of events that Stacey for some reason was provided a test, and as far as I am aware, the results of those take a few days.

                3. TardyTardis*

                  Rand Paul went to get tested, but while waiting for the results of the test, used the Senate pool and weight room. I expect him to turn up missing some day, and the entire rest of the Senate would be on the suspect list.

                4. MCMonkeyBean*

                  It wasn’t malicious but it was absolutely thoughtless. She didn’t know for sure that she had it, but she clearly thought it was a possibility otherwise she wouldn’t have gotten tested. I think OP’s attitude is perfectly appropriate for the situation.

                5. remoter*

                  She didn’t even wear a mask after getting tested. That’s malicious in my eyes, even if it’s due to ignorance

              5. MommyMD*

                If you were concerned, did you wear a mask? It’s very possible Stacy did have allergies and something changed. Did you contract COVID?

              6. Springella*

                I have zero tolerance for people like Stacey, especially because you wrote that she didn’t take Covid seriously. This should be treated similarly as knowingly infecting somebody with HIV, you’re criminally responsible. Utterly selfish and ignorant.

          3. Beth*

            Stacy could have made a good-faith effort to show that she was taking the situation seriously. I have terrible allergies, which make me cough and hack and sneeze constantly. I’ve also been really scrupulous about wearing a mask, washing my hands, keeping my distance, not handling anything that anyone else has to handle, etc.

            There are a lot of ways in which Stacy could have handled this better. She handled it so badly that if I were her manager, I’d be calling her on the carpet as soon as she was able to return to work.

          4. Butterfly Counter*

            A month ago, my husband woke up with a cough and sore throat that he KNEW was allergies. He told his office his symptoms since they fit the “Stay home if you have X” and they told him to STAY HOME and that he couldn’t come back to work without a doctor’s note. He talked to a doctor who told him he would sign the note with a negative Covid 19 test. So my husband got tested (he was negative; it was allergies causing the symptoms) and could then go back into the office.

            It was a pain in the butt to jump through these hoops, but I am so glad his office had these procedures in place just in case someone else mistakes their symptoms for allergies when it’s a potentially deadly disease.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, this would be annoying overkill pre-COVID, but now it’s absolutely a public health necessity.

          5. JM60*

            In this time, you people should assume it’s COVID-19 until proven otherwise. She needlessly jeopardized the OP’s health and took no actions to minimize the risk of spread. IMO, if she was in a position where she could afford to stay home until a negative test (some companies are offering paid leave for this), then she deserves to be fired.

          6. NBGB*

            Another significant issue is that someone can be COVID positive and be asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic. The virus can be passed on whether you’re coughing or sneezing due to allergies or something else non-virus related.

            I cough when I drink water too fast and it goes down the wrong pipe. If I have the virus but am asymptomatic at that point, I can still pass it on through my hacking trying to clear the water out.

            No matter if she (honestly or not) thought she only had allergies, she had an obligation here to take precautions and at least could have worn a mask and taken advantage of the WFH options.

            It seems that the company and management, too, did not have safe or strong policies in place.

            1. Meg Ster*

              THIS x 100,000,000. If it might be allergies, then it might be covid-19. Times have changed, and so what we do and care about necessarily needs to change, too. My federal workplace has clearly stated rules that if you are even vaguely unwell, you shall not be at work, and you shall proceed to the base clinic with a letter to get tested. End of story.

              They also just sent out orders (not instruction, an order) that we’re obliged to stay well not just for ourselves but for our coworkers/don’t get others sick (because duh, readiness). There’s an extensive list of now-open businesses/services that are open that we are restricted from going to/using. The order made the point that just because a business is open doesn’t mean it’s safe, it just means government has allowed businesses to decide it’s time to make money again.

        3. Luke*

          There are some data points to note here:

          One,many people suffer seasonal allergies.It is hardly fair to ask them to quarantine themselves for the duration of the outbreak.

          Two; Stacy had a duty to be honest to her manager and coworkers. She was not. The supervisor duly raised the question, and she misled him. Stacy is the responsible party, as it would seem she’d have been sent home if she were honest.

          Three; the missing ingredient to me is the employers sick and time off policy. If the company did not provision extra sick time (or required a positive test result before approving time off), Stacys dishonesty makes logical (if upsetting) sense. When people are asked to choose between their health and income, we shouldn’t be surprised when they act in favor of the latter.

          1. M. Albertine*

            Your 3rd point seems moot given LW’s description of how the company is following up (time off to await test results, additional time if positive).

          2. sofar*

            Yes, I was wondering about their usual policy too. Someone mentioned that, given the fact that LW is being treated well with time off to await her test results, the company seems to have a good policy. But that’s not necessarily true. My friend works for a place where the company switched to a more generous policy only AFTER they had a confirmed positive case. Until then, it was, “You can take your sick days/vacation time if you have them if you want to wait for your test results, but we’re not giving you extra time.”

            Predictably, this led to a person who was out of sick days coming to work with minor symptoms, claiming allergies (as an allergy sufferer, I’ve had symptoms since March, it’s a fact of life for me, but thankfully I work from home now). Also, in many areas, for a long time, you couldn’t get a test unless you have had certain symptoms AND contact with someone who tested positive. Anyway, the employee eventually qualified for a test when her boyfriend tested positive. She tested positive, and suddenly, the company was like, “OK everyone go get tested! One week of leave while you await results!”

          3. Eillah*

            Nope. Completely disagree with point 1. These are not typical times, overall good overrules individual wants.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              …especially as they can be given paid leave to do so! And Stacey had the option of WFH too. Or wearing a mask, or telling the supervisor they should maybe shift the desks so she and OP were more than 6 feet apart.

          4. Stacey's Victim- OP*

            Hi, OP here. The company has WFH and Stacey has done it before in times of personal struggle. They would have absolutely allowed her to WFH for a week while awaiting test results. The big-boss was quite upset for that exact reason and said, “Why didn’t she just ask to work from home for a week? I would have let her.” The company also has emergency paid sick leave that would have covered her even if she had no PTO left. I could understand if none of those were available, but there were tons of options available to Stacey and she specifically chose not to take them.

            1. sofar*

              OK. Wow. I that case, wtf, Stacey? I’d be furious, too. Sounds like she had plenty of options available to her besides exposing all her coworkers to the coronavirus.

            2. Katrinka*

              But did Stacy know that? If the company had not specifically sent around guidelines that stated they would give time off for results, then Stacy had no way of knowing what they WOULD have done. I know you’re mad at Stacy (for good reason), but the company bears some blame too, since it sounds like they did not have a clear policy in place prior to Stacy getting sick. The fact that they have a decent on in place now and are treating you right, doesn’t negate the fact that they should have done all of this BEFORE anyone got sick.

              1. ZB*

                Where does it sound like it wasn’t clear before? OP even says that Stacy has taken advantage of the WFH policy previously.

              2. Eillah*

                Stacey is a grown woman and could have put effort into finding out, it’s not as if it’s a big secret what companies are requiring employees to do to stay safe…

                1. Taniwha Girl*

                  Yeah, the onus is on Stacy, the person with symptoms, to say “hey I might be sick with a potentially-deadly communicable disease, let’s ask if my company will let me use WFH as they have done in the past, while I test to see if I have it and also try not to infect others.

                  This is why this is a PANDEMIC, because of people like Stacy.

            3. Niska*

              I have to admit, at this time, I would consider this a fireable offense. Her putting you and all of the other staff at risk (and thus risking your life and/or other terrible lifelong consequences of getting it) by not taking paid work from home time as she waited for results is absolutely reprehensible. I see a lot of people in the comments making excuses for her (maybe she didn’t know about PTO, etc.) and it sounds like she DID know and chose to come to work anyway.

              1. theguvnah*

                agreed, the defense for stacey on this board is baffling. I’m glad i wfh permanently and don’t have to be around most of these people ever.

          5. animaniactoo*

            You can require people to quarantine get tested as soon as they start showing allergy symptoms which are potentially covid symptoms. You can require them to get retested weekly as long as they continue to show symptoms so that it will be caught as quickly as possible even if they’re back working in the office.

            The manager does not have to take an employee’s word for what they’re claiming – in particular because the employee could be straight up wrong about what they think is happening to them. They can ask the employee- particularly during this time – to provide proof in the form of a negative test and ongoing negative tests. Will that be annoying? Yes. Is it an undue burden? I don’t particularly think so given the interests of protecting all employees at large.

            Benefit of the doubt here, I think Stacy got a test expecting a negative result that she could wave around to get people off her back and got a massive shock instead. It does not sound like she attempted to hide the result of the test once she had it.

            But just imagine that if instead of taking Stacy’s word for it, the manager/company looked to ensure that if the employee were wrong about symptoms that are so similar, it would not be a problem for other employees.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              And you can require them to WFH if their job is eligible. And you can require them to wear a mask on company property. And you can segregate their workspace & office supplies.
              None of which Stacy did and all of which would have reduced her office’s exposure.

          6. Dove*

            “One,many people suffer seasonal allergies.It is hardly fair to ask them to quarantine themselves for the duration of the outbreak.”

            It’s hardly fair to everyone around them, to be exposed to what might or might not be someone who’s a carrier.

            We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Normal rules *do not apply* right now, and it is unreasonable to expect them to apply. Normally, someone would be fine to go in to work with seasonal allergies – especially if those allergies can be expected to last for weeks. Right now? No, absolutely not, they need to stay home until they’ve at least got a negative test to provide as proof that they aren’t a carrier.

            1. Melissa*

              I have seasonal allergies, and my biggest symptom is coughing. This week, I switched my day in the office so I wouldn’t be freaking people out. And as a result, boss had to have that conversation about symptoms with me over the phone.
              It’s a pain, but this is an extraordinary time, and us allergic folks just can’t get upset at being asked to either show we’re not sick, or quarantine ourselves.

            2. Dragon Toad*

              Not to mention, it’s one thing to go “I won’t quarrantine myself every time I have a sniffle, since I have regular allergies”. It’s another thing ENTIRELY to say “I’ve been outright tested for COVID because there is a genuine reason to think I may have it, but I’m STILL not going to quarrantine myself”.

        4. Nic*

          To be fair to the supervisor, sniffling is far more in keeping with seasonal allergies than Covid (Goodness knows my hayfever’s been off the charts this year!), and coughs associated with sniffling tend to be wet/mucus-y coughing, which again, isn’t the characteristic dry cough we’re all on the lookout for. Although I would generally agree with “when in doubt, send them home”, I can see why the supervisor would not want to push people out of the office when a) they trust the employee’s honesty and b) the symptoms aren’t a perfect match.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Except that Covid doesn’t necessarily come with a dry cough, it can be sniffly too. This disease is all over the place in terms of the symptoms!

        5. Jay*

          Definitely. I had a cold in March — it was obviously just a cold, with a mild sore throat and sniffle, no cough, no fever. I stayed home the first day so as not to make anyone uncomfortable, but I was feeling much better after the weekend and came back in. That morning I sniffled a little bit, cleared my throat a couple of times, and my supervisor told me, politely but firmly, from a distance, that I needed to go home. I was a little grumpy — I wasn’t trying to be a martyr, I genuinely felt fine and had no symptoms that (at that point) were flagged as suspicious for COVID-19.

          I developed a fever the next day, and tested positive by the end of the week. I am immensely grateful that I didn’t stay at work or get close to anybody in the brief time I was there. I was so sure it was a cold — but I learned that you can’t know.

          I’m sympathetic to the problem of someone with allergies being like, “So I can’t work for the entirety of allergy season now?” and I don’t know the right way to treat them fairly but not put others in danger. But when I think about the bullet everyone in my workplace dodged, I feel like caution really is warranted.

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            And I mean, the absolute least someone can do is put on a mask. Lots of people legitimately can’t work from home, so even if that were the case here (which it wasn’t!) she could have done that much. She didn’t. This is utterly egregious and I’m somewhat surprised that it doesn’t sound like her company is considering firing her.

          2. theguvnah*

            serious question, with no judgment. Did you not read that people had mild symptoms or were asymptotic? why were you so convinced you were okay? I truly want to know the thought process here.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Jay said it was in March, at the start of all this. That could mean first-wave before the reports of asymptomatic infections had hit the news.

      1. Random Commenter*

        They could have has Stacy stay home because she was exhibiting symptoms, regardless of whether she thought that they were allergies or not.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Honestly, it doesn’t seem the company as a whole is taking this very seriously at all.

          No mask requirement, sharing office supplies in the middle of a pandemic, seemingly no clear policy on testing and what to do if you get symptoms. And that’s before we even mention that most office work really could/should be done from home nowadays, so I doubt there’s a real need for them *both* to be in the office *everyday*.

          OP, Stacy was clearly at fault here, but I don’t think she was the only one putting you at risk. Your company wasn’t much better all in all.

          1. Ashley*

            I agree with you that it doesn’t sound like they are taking this very seriously. From what OP has said, WFH is an option at this company/with this job. Why wasn’t everyone who could WFH doing so already? Obviously a lot of factors at play here that we don’t necessarily know, but that jumped out at me right away.

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            I feel like my whole state is like this, like everyone is just “WELP, sick o’ these masks now, COVID’s prolly over and we wanna go to restaurants!” Everyone’s lackadaisical until there’s suddenly a confirmed case or three in their office.

            Maybe this will be the wakeup call for OP’s company. I just hope no one else has to pay the price for Stacy’s not taking the pandemic seriously.

            1. Darsynia*

              Part of what frustrates me as a Pennsylvanian is the messaging around the pandemic. By naming the stages ‘Red, Yellow, and Green,’ with green still not business as usual (‘work from home is preferred where feasible’), it still sends the ‘everything is back to normal’ message inherent in the coding system. Green means go to nearly everyone.

              So many employers have decided to split the difference so as not to alienate people who do see mask-wearing as political, and it’s to everyone’s detriment. ‘Masks optional’ can end up with a situation just like what has happened–someone who didn’t take the pandemic seriously chose to act without precautions and thus have exposed their coworkers. This could have been mitigated by mask wearing; as uncomfortable as it is, the underlying condition can cause serious and permanent damage even to people who don’t have to go on ventilators.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                And then there’s the whole thing where we are one of three states trending downwards and yet a certain segment of the population is calling our governor a tyrant for how he’s handled this.

      2. Ashley*

        If she got a positive test she should not have been allowed in the building. Someone else should have had to pack up her stuff. That should be company policy 101 during this outbreak. And that is the bear minimum the manager should have done.

        1. Sylvan*

          Well, yesterday, Stacy comes back from lunch in tears, refusing to tell anyone what’s wrong as she packs up her stuff and says she’s leaving early and that I’ll be finishing the rest of our work by myself. I had no idea what was going on. Our supervisor came and notified me afterwards that she had apparently just received her positive test results.

          She left when she got her test results. Apparently, she didn’t tell anyone her results until she was on her way out. (She should have stopped coming to work as soon as she suspected, and told people, but that’s beside the point of what her supervisor should have done.)

          1. Ashley*

            But there should be a company policy prohibiting that. Maybe the manager didn’t know, but if someone knowingly comes into an office space with COVID that should be a fire able offense. (This should also be common sense at this point. Even the drug store has signs to call if you are positive and not just to go to the store.)

            1. Sylvan*

              I agree with that. She should be fired. There should be company policy prohibiting several different things she did.

              1. Zombeyonce*

                There should be company policy prohibiting several different things she did.

                But see, that’s the problem right there. While I definitely think Stacey was in the wrong, it’s the company that holds the majority of the blame here. It sounds like they had zero policies around COVID-19 for her to follow or adhere to regarding staying out of the office while potential symptoms, getting tested, telework, leave if symptomatic or exposed to someone who tested positive, etc. Stacey was making it up as she went along because she got no guidance from leadership and probably didn’t want to miss out on a paycheck or use her leave when she likely did think it was just allergies. It is terrible that after she got tested she continued to go into work but still, she was following her own conscience because the company hadn’t provided anything else for her to follow and is only now offering leave for people after this incident. OP’s company is the problem here.

                1. JM60*

                  While the employer is at fault, the absence of an explicit prohibition on certain behavior at work does not reduce an individual’s responsibility. If an employer lacks an explicit prohibition on assaulting people at work, that doesn’t at at reduce someone’s responsibility to not assault people.

                  At this time, it should be common sense to not come to work if you feel ill with any COVID symptoms. You shouldn’t need an explicit directive on that.

                2. Courageous cat*

                  Agreed with Jm60. You don’t need guidance to know if you’re exhibiting signs of a highly contagious virus, and your colleague is immunocompromised, you stay home. This is not a situation in which she should have had someone hold her hand through each step. It was her responsibility to take the prerogative.

                3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  I reckon that when she got tested she’d be told to quarantine until she had the result!

              2. serenity*

                I think others are making the point elsewhere but it may not be productive to think of Stacy as the only villain here.

                A company remaining open while Covid cases are active in the community and has employees hot-desking and sitting 5 feet away from each other with no apparent mask-wearing requirements are policies that are almost guaranteed to lead to results like this. “Stacy should be fired and is bad” probably isn’t the key takeaway here. The company is more at fault.

                1. fposte*

                  I strongly agree with this. Making it about individual responsibility is missing the public health forest for the trees. I think a lot of us are anxious about the weakness of national and some state leadership on this (and it sounds like the OP is in one of those states, given the absence of a mask-wearing requirement) as well as employers, but it’s IMHO, neither reasonable nor practical to demand that individuals uniformly take the initiative to compensate for that lack.

                2. JM60*

                  ‘“Stacy should be fired and is bad” probably isn’t the key takeaway here. The company is more at fault.’

                  It’s not one or another. The employer can be at greater fault AND Stacy can be deserving of termination.

                3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  The company is at fault for not making masks compulsory, for not moving desks to ensure at least 6 feet between staff members, for not telling Stacy to get tested/WFH the minute she started showing symptoms.

                  Rules have to be drawn up and applied precisely because people like Stacy can’t be trusted to apply common sense.

          2. Momma Bear*

            Absolutely they need to revisit how they handle this. She should not have been in the building while waiting and especially not after getting a positive result. If OP does nothing else, I think that’s a conversation to have with HR. In my company, anyone who works closely with others is required to wear a mask and the company has been providing better masks for those folks than the staff who can sit in an office alone. Better enforcement of a mask policy would help OP.

          3. NYC Taxi*

            In my office, which is taking covid extremely seriously with masks, temp check, etc if you or someone you live with is waiting on covid test results you are not to come into the office.

          4. Meg Ster*

            Not exactly. She *came back to the office* _after_ learning she was positive. That shouldn’t have happened (she could have called and requested that her items be brought outside so she could pick them up.

            Water under the bridge at that point, since she’d already made the conscious choice to keep coming in after she got the test. Sheesh.

        2. TiredMama*

          Would anyone consider this grounds for firing her? This is incredibly poor judgment that put everyone she worked with at risk and therefore puts the business at risk.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            We have rolled these types of requirements into our safety management plan onsite here, and it is explicit if I remember correctly that if you are found to be ignoring these guidelines, you are at risk of firing.

            One of the guidelines is not coming to work with symptoms consistent with COVID, another is if supervisor notes an employee with those symptoms you are to be sent home. 2 week quarantine period. Another is that if you knowingly come into contact with someone who is suspected of having or was confirmed to have COVID, you must go into a 2 week quarantine.

            However, we’ve also mandated masks and banned close gatherings.

            1. Thankful for AAM*

              As EC said, my employer has policies about not working if you have covid symptoms. Stacy would be violating them and subject to firing as a result.

              1. Essess*

                However, firing her now means she loses her health insurance while she has COVID which is unforgivable as well.

                1. TiredMama*

                  That’s true. If I was her manager, I do not think I would fire her without talking with her about it after she returns to work. And as others pointed out, there are other questions that affect my opinion of her decision-making ability. Does she have sick leave? Could she have worked from home? Would she have been paid while quarantining? If the answer to the last three questions is yes, then I would no longer trust her and her decision-making ability and would probably fire her after she returns. But if no, then the company needs to re-think what the behavior it is incentivizing.

                2. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  When I was laid off they continued my health insurance for several weeks. So that might be an option.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            This is exactly what I was coming here to say. I would absolutely consider this grounds for firing someone.

            I’d be curious to hear what any lawyers think though.

            1. LQ*

              Literally firing someone for having a medical condition? Are you supporting firing everyone who works with a contagious disease going forward? This does not sound like the worker’s paradise that people keep saying it is.

              1. Temperance*

                If someone knowingly brought a highly infectious disease to work that could spread to colleagues just by breathing near them, that’s 100% a fireable offense in my mind. Stacy had symptoms and went for a test for COVID-19. She thought she had it, and keep LYING to people, insisting that it was just allergies. She also didn’t mask up or sanitize, and was engaging in high-risk behavior outside of work.

                This is not akin to discriminating against a person with HIV or another technically contagious disease that has no chance of spreading to colleagues through normal daily work activities.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  Exactly this.

                  It wouldn’t be firing someone for *having* an illness, it would be firing them for willfully exposing countless other people to a highly contagious and dangerous virus.

                2. animaniactoo*

                  I have some strong suspicion that Stacy didn’t get a test because she thought she had it – she got a test to shut everyone up and prove it was just allergies and got a massive shock when it came back positive.

                  However, she certainly was cavalier in her behavior to *prevent* herself from catching it, and while knowing that she was sharing office space with someone else who didn’t have a choice about being in her presence. And on those grounds, I am back in the “negligent to the point of firing” territory.

                3. Brett*

                  Make a policy like that, and an employee who does test positive will NEVER tell their employer.

              2. GDub*

                LQ, I think you misunderstand. The person would be fired for lying about a medical condition and endangering coworkers. Literally not the same thing.

                1. Anne Elliot*

                  But she didn’t lie about her medical condition. Giving Stacy all possible benefit of the doubt: She didn’t think she had it; she went and got tested to rule it out; and when she found out she did have it, she never said she did not.

                  The endangerment issue has more weight but would need careful consideration and policy drafting, and clear notice to the employees. People come to work all the time with infectious conditions (flu, colds), which has never in the past subjected an irresponsible employee to termination. So the “THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT” part would have to be fully and clearly explained in a advance. There also is the potential that staking out the position that “If you know you have COVID and you come to work, you’ll be fired” might lead some employees to think, “Well, I need this job so I won’t find out; they can’t fire me for coming in if I don’t actually know.” That’s why I think this position would need careful consideratin before adoption.

                2. JM60*

                  @Anne Elliot

                  “So the “THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT” part would have to be fully and clearly explained in a advance.”

                  There are certain things that shouldn’t need an explicit directive ahead of time. For instance, if an employer doesn’t have an explicit prohibition on punching others at work, that doesn’t make it okay to punch people at work. I think that during this deadly pandemic, “Don’t come to work if you feel sick (unless you test negative for COVID-19)” is one of those things where a person shouldn’t need an explicit prohibition on.

                3. an*


                  I have never worked at a place where punching people is something that is ever okay under any circumstances, and thus it seems qualitatively different from “you’ll be fired if you come in ill”, but YMMV.

                4. JM60*


                  The reason why you haven’t worked in any workplace where punching people was permitted is probably because it’s patently obvious that punching people shouldn’t occur in the workplace. It should be patently obvious that people shouldn’t be at work if they’re showing COVID-19 symptoms.

              3. fhqwhgads*

                It’s not firing her for having a medical condition. It’s firing her for coming in when she knew she was waiting on test results, for which there was ample paid leave she could’ve and should’ve taken the second she suspected enough to go get tested.
                You don’t fire anyone who works with a contagious disease, you send them home the second they exhibit symptoms, which this employer didn’t do and that’s their fault. But it’s absolutely her fault that she could’ve worked from home OR could’ve been on paid sick leave while awaiting her test results and came in, insisted the symptoms were something else and didn’t tell anyone btw I’m waiting on test results which would’ve prompted them to send her home immediately sooner.

          3. Lady Meyneth*

            It depends on what actual policies the company had at that point. Were they telling employees to WFH or take the time off if the had any symptoms, or were they being prissy about time off even during all this?

            If Stacy felt her job could be in jeopardy if she took actual quarantine time off, I can see her believing she had to go to work anyway, especially if she has a history of bad allergies. It’s a jerk move when she works with a high risk person, but there are some seriously crappy companies out there, and people are having to weight risk against unemployment everyday.

            (OP, I’m saying this as a fellow high-risk person, and I think you’re entirely justified in your feelings. I’m just pointing out a possible perspective in Stacy’s mind)

            1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

              Hi, OP here, the company does utilize WFH and Stacey has used it in the past. Our big-boss actually said to me, “Why didn’t she just ask to work from home for a week? I would have let her.” Company also has paid emergency sick leave for this exact thing, so she could have taken it even if she didn’t have any PTO left. She had a lot of options available to her and took none of them for whatever reason. The company is super flexible when it comes to time and very accommodating with shifting schedules around and it’s one of the big reasons that a lot of people want to work there.

              1. Lady Meyneth*

                Honestly, if your job is one where you could both work fom home, specially you as a high risk person, I’m giving an even stinkier eye to your company for having you in the office and at the same time.

                Stacy was a jerk, that seems to be fact. Your supervisor apparently was also a jerk for not *making* her WFH when she had symptoms and she knew it. You have a perfect right to be mad at both of them. But you really should think about your company’s policies, because this doesn’t seem like a place that’s taking good care of their employees.

                1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

                  My role is significantly different from hers and I have to be actually present to do it, but I will definitely be asking if I can transition into a role that allows WFH.

              2. TiredMama*

                Well that seals the deal for me. That is very poor judgment on her part. She risked exposing other employees, which is disrespectful in my opinion and potentially hurts the business because more employees are likely going to be sick and out at the same time, and just bad judgment. I would have a serious discussion with her when she gets back and would consider probation or something to really drive home how serious it is.

              3. goducks*

                I guess I’ll ask why you’re not utilizing WFH? I’m not looking to blame you for Stacy’s choices, but given that you’re high-risk, and your employer is not sending people who are symptomatic home (and are having you clustered together), why are you in the office? We are seeing left and right people thinking this is a hoax. As someone who lives with a high-risk person, I’m taking every opportunity to stay home because I don’t trust others.

                Your employer should have sent her home, for sure, your employer sucks at this, but I’m guessing whatever is driving you to work in the office instead of at home plays into her decision to come in, too. I’m guessing that the workplace may allow WFH, but maybe it doesn’t feel like it’s really an option that one can take.

                1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

                  My role is significantly different from hers and I have to be actually present in the office to do my job, but I will definitely be asking if I can transition to a role where WFH is possible.

              4. fposte*

                Huh, different reactions to this comment. I find Big Boss’s comment infuriating. Why, if working from home was possible, are people in the office? Why did they expect people to come to ask rather than announcing at the start of the pandemic what people with any symptoms at all should do? Why aren’t they moving desks apart and providing masks?

                I’m not saying that it’s a bad company–a lot of employers that are ordinarily good at stuff have fallen over their own feet with the pandemic, and from the Big Boss’s words it sounds like it prides itself on being thoughtful and flexible. But they were passively accommodating in a situation that requires active changes, and the consequence was utterly predictable. Stacy is great for them because they can blame her. If it had been somebody asymptomatic (and maybe there was, and that’s how Stacy got it) how did they expect an employee to avoid passing on a disease they don’t know they have in an environment that has failed to put in place the main protective requirements?

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  But they were passively accommodating in a situation that requires active changes, and the consequence was utterly predictable.

                  OH JUST WAIT until the Friday thread; do I have a story for you all.

                2. pancakes*

                  Yes. People who can work from home should be instructed to work from home. It shouldn’t be optional — it reduces risk for them and everyone else.

                3. Taniwha Girl*


                  Stacy is wrong but also she is the perfect fall guy for what are truly thoughtless policies.

                  “But they were passively accommodating in a situation that requires active changes, and the consequence was utterly predictable.”
                  This is great phrasing. This needs systemic and proactive changes, not “I guess you can work from home if you need to” after a sick person has exposed others at work.

          4. Katrinka*

            I think it depends on what, if any, policies the company ahd in place prior to her getting sick. If she violated any of those policies, then yes, she absolutely should be fired. But if the company hadn’t done or said anything prior to her getting sick, then she was winging it, could make the argument that she really did think it was allergies, and didn’t know she should stay home while waiting for results. In that case, it would warrant a written warning and maaaaaaybe some wort of probation perioe/PIP, but there’s not really anything else the company can do from a legal standpoint. And it’s really REALLY shitty to fire someone in the middle of a pandemic and cut off their health insurance. Ask me how I know.

            1. JM60*

              From a legal standpoint, an employer can fire people for recklessly jeopardizing the health of others.

              Also, the company should have policies here, but “Don’t come to work sick unless you test negative for COVID” should be the type of thing people should know to adhere to without being told to do so.

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              I utterly hate that most Americans’ health insurance is still linked to employment.

          5. I can only speak Japanese*

            At my last job, you could be fired for not wearing PPE that only protected you (this was construction), so I don’t see why not.

          6. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Yes. Ignoring corporate CV19 policy is grounds for formal discipline including termination at my Fortune 100 company. No one may come into the building when we know we have been exposed or when we have symptoms that require testing. Just getting into the building takes a temperature scan.

        3. soon to be former fed really*

          Sigh…yes, this is so obviously true. If the virus doesn’t get us all, people’s stupidity will.

      3. Secret Identity*

        Well, maybe the supervisor could have required Stacy to quarantine at home for 2 weeks due to having symptoms consistent with covid-19 regardless of what Stacy claimed it was. Or maybe he could have required all employees to wear a mask or changed their seating arrangements to make sure they were sufficiently separated especially when OP expressed concerns about Stacy’s symptoms. Even if Stacy really had only had allergies, it would have been worth it for OP’s peace of mind.
        It seems to me there’s a lot the supervisor could have done and none of them really involve assuming Stacy definitely didn’t have covid-19.

        1. Clorinda*

          At the very, very least, co-workers should not be sharing “all their supplies,” as OP describes. Buy everyone their own stapler, for heaven’s sake! Keep a box of sanitizing wipes next to things that absolutely must be shared, like communal printers. Create separation. Even if you don’t have space to separate the desks, there are ways. Orchestras have clear plexiglass sound shields that are meant to protect the rest of us from the nasty brass. You could strategically place those between desks that are too close.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          It should definitely be explicit company policy that you should work from home or take leave if you’re having any possible Covid symptoms, and especially while awaiting test results. When she told the manager it was allergies, they should have required her to get tested before coming back. You can have allergies and have Covid at the same time, so that’s not really an excuse for blowing off concerns that you might have the thing we’re all in the middle of a pandemic because of right now.

          You definitely should have leverage to at least get your own private workspace, if not some other compensation. If your workplace still seems to be blowing this off, please report it to ProPublica or another organization. Making an example of your workplace can help other people’s You definitely should have leverage to at least get your own private workspace, if not some other compensation. If your workplace still seems to be blowing this off, please report it to propublica or another organization. Making an example of your workplace can help other people’s employers shape up.

      4. Sylvan*


        She may have initially thought she had allergies – plenty of people have allergies right now – but, like Alison said, she had to suspect something to decide to get tested. She could have opened up then, but she didn’t until her test came back positive. While she thought she had allergies and while she wasn’t being honest about potential COVID, I don’t know what her supervisor could have done.

        1. Paulina*

          The supervisor may not have been empowered to require Stacy to be tested, but if not then they should have shared the basic information of the situation with someone who had the authority to set policy. Plenty of workplaces have policies that anyone with sufficient symptoms must be tested.

          It’s possible that Stacy still didn’t suspect she had COVID; she may have taken the test because someone else she interacted with was drawing that line, needing a test to be around her, and Stacy thought it would be negative.

          1. Katrinka*

            Plenty of workplaces do have such policies. It doesn’t sound like OP’s did though, until AFTER this debacle.

        2. Madeleine Matilda*

          She should have quarantined herself as soon as she decided she needed a test. That would have minimized any additional exposure.

          1. Sylvan*

            100% agreed. There are a lot of other things she should have done, too, like the bare basics of wearing a mask and keeping herself and her space clean.

      5. Reluctant Manager*

        It sounds to me like normal precautions weren’t even being taken. People shouldn’t be sitting 5 feet apart.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          And they should be encouraged to wear masks, regardless of their distance. Sounds like that wasn’t a thing at this office.

        2. Meredith*

          They should also be working from home if at all possible, though obviously we don’t know enough about this business to know if that’s plausible.

          1. Nanny Mouse*

            The OP is being given paid leave instead of being told to work from home while awaiting test results (and presumably they aren’t actually sick yet). I think it’s reasonable to say that their jobs probably can’t be done remotely.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              update from OP: Stacy’s can and she has done do in the past. OP’s cannot.

        3. soon to be former fed really*

          Yep, and no plexiglas barriers either? This workplace gives not a damn about the health of its workers.

          This thing is going to get worse before it gets better, when the seasonal fall/winter flare up happens as with the flu.

        4. Kiki*

          This! Like, I know the LW says the company and upper management has been great, but it seems like proper protocols had not been implemented for this office, which is on them. I completely understand blaming Stacy, but in my opinion the company was also not doing enough.

      6. Sarah N*

        The supervisor could have had people wear masks, for one thing, and sent them home if they refused to follow policies. There also should have been an ENFORCED policy in place where everyone does a symptom and temperature screening before entering the building and is sent home if they don’t pass. Most companies I know that are taking this seriously and have a reason they need people to be present in person are doing this. There is no excuse for allowing a symptomatic person to remain on the job.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Could their supervisor have done any of this though? If the company as a whole doesn’t have policies in place, and aren’t taking this seriously, one supervisor can’t do much about the behavior of an employee that’s following the companies (bad or non existant) policies.

      7. kt*

        All the institutions I’m dealing with (daycare, office, etc.) have clear guidelines that you need to stay home (WFH in the case of work) if you’ve got a cough, sore throat, anything that could be COVID, any suspicion, any contact with other sick people. If it’s just one cough or whatever, 3 days symptom-free is good. If it’s allergies and you can’t control ’em, stay home. The attitude here for work is that it’s far cheaper & safer to have someone WFH with allergies than have to professionally clean the building and quarantine everyone who was at work for two weeks. It’s that simple.

      8. Nesprin*

        My company has stated that anyone who gets tested should quarantine at home, since testing is not 100% and if you look like you’d be eligible for a test, please stay away from my immunocompromized self.

      9. kvite*

        My employer has a daily screen (an online form) that employees have to complete every day before coming into the office. They list the symptoms they are concerned about, and the employer makes the decision about whether or not you’re allowed to come to the office. (The decision tree is built into the online form. By the time you finish the form, you know whether or not you’re allowed in.)

      10. JSPA*

        The “she was sneezing and coughing for days” is a red herring, actually.

        Stacy probably did have seasonal allergies; people do. Some of those people also get Covid-19. it’s not either/or, after all.

        If you normally sneeze, wheeze and cough through May and June, you might not notice anything out of the ordinary until you felt additional symptoms, or heard from a friend that they were positive, and you should get tested.

        The point is, she was

        a) vocally careless


        b) handled disclosure badly

        and above all,

        c) maskless, despite the fact that having uncontrolled allergies and no mask turns you into a potential superspreader, if you do get Covid-19.

        Supervisor should have said, “suppress and cover your sneezing effectively, or else stay home. Nobody knows if they have Covid, and we can’t have people spraying droplets while in a shared space.”

        1. Nic*

          Agreed. I’m side-eyeing a lot of people claiming she should have known, because while Covid’s symptoms vary a lot from person to person, the seasonal allergy spread of symptoms don’t really coincide beyond a surface similarity. Seasonal allergies tend to show themselves in excess mucous production (stuffed-up nose and wet coughing), itchy nose/sneezing, and streaming eyes. That’s dramatic and obvious, but it’s not the same as the dry cough, lack of breath and loss of taste/smell we’re told are characteristic Covid symptoms.

          My guess would be that unless there are more symptoms LW didn’t mention, her symptoms were most likely allergy symptoms, and she took the test to rule it out because so many other people were insistent about worrying for her. And then she found that she did have it, and is either having a mild case or is asymptomatic. Either way, the one thing she has done wrong, is to come into the office after getting a positive result.

          1. Meg Ster*

            Also…continuing to go to work after deciding to get tested, especially given she had the option to WFH.

    2. Anon Anon*

      Personally, I think it’s more a case of the organization not having clear policies and requiring supervisors to enforce them.

      Every company at this point should have a policy that says if you exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19 that you must leave the premise. And, that you can only return to working in the building with a negative COVID-19 test or after all symptoms have resolved.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        And not excusing Stacy, but you’re saying that anyone that has allergies should not be allowed to work – they need a negative COVID test to return to the building. For someone with allergies that last for months, do they need a weekly COVID test in order to work until allergy season is past?

        1. Anon Anon*

          Yes. Anyone who has allergies should be tested. I don’t think that they need to be tested weekly. But, upon initial symptoms they should be tested. However, this is one of the many reasons I believe that more organizations should be encouraging employees to work from home. Or at the very least requiring masks and social distancing. People with allergies shouldn’t have to feel like every sneeze or sniffle gets them looked at strangely, and every one else shouldn’t have to be concerned that someone sneezing or a person having a runny nose might give them the virus. So I’d argue, test, mask, social distance.

          1. Jen Gregory*

            In a perfect world with unlimited testing capacity, maybe. Perhaps you are one of the lucky folks who live somewhere where tests are widely available to anyone who wants one. Unfortunately, in my area COVID testing is only available with a doctor’s referral, and is generally limited to people with known exposure to a COVID-positive patient. I am a seasonal allergy sufferer, and there’s no way I could get a weekly test throughout allergy season. My doctor simply wouldn’t do it if my only symptoms were allergy-related ones – and even if I could sweet-talk my way into a referral, it would be wrong to take up part of the limited testing capacity for something like that. There’s no easy answer, and I agree it’s a strong argument for allowing extended WFH. We may not be able to test as aggressively as we want, but masking and social distancing is something we can always do.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I have nasty allergies – all the trees, weeds, and grasses they test for, plus dust mites, molds, cat and dog dander, etc. I have allergy symptoms pretty much year round (although they are particularly nasty at this time of year).

          How often should I get tested? Because the reality is, I can catch it, and until more-than-mild (colloquial mild, not you-aren’t-hospitalized-mild) symptoms appear, I would have no cause to suspect. But I’m probably more hazardous than someone asymptomatic without allergies, because sneezing.

          I’m working from home for the foreseeable future, but if I couldn’t do my job that way, what would the solution be? I really don’t know. :(

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I have allergies – dust, pollen, grasses, weeds, etc. I take two different kinds of OTC meds for them, every day.

            If I had to go into the office, I would come equipped with masks (four or more for each day), hand sanitizer, tissues, etc. Because that’s what a responsible person does.

            The masks become key here – they are most effective as source control, as in cutting down potential transmission for the source. If I was in the midst of an excessive allergy attack, I would be lining my mask with tissues, so I could sneeze, discretely swap the tissues, sanitize my hands, and continue my day without adding to other people’s risk.

            COVID-19 is Schrodingers Virus – you have no way at first to know you have it without a positive test, but a negative test doesn’t me you won’t subsequently get it. So you have to assume you *might* have it at all times, and act accordingly in public and at work.

            Fortunately for me I can WFH – all of the people in my house are in the “at risk” category, and one of the roommates is definitely immune compromised – she’s on meds that leave her vulnerable to every cold and flu that comes along, not just covid. We’re all extra careful because of it.

            1. Kyrielle*

              I am definitely masking up whenever I am out of the house. I was just wondering, how often does one get tested, given allergies. No question that anyone who can should be wearing masks, and with my allergies and whatnot I definitely think it’s even more important for me to do so.

        3. hbc*

          We have someone who has a persistent cough due to smoking and a lung collapse last year. We sent him home and said he could come back after a week with either a negative test or a doctor’s note that his cough was due to underlying conditions. We also altered our screening form so that there’s an option for “yes, I have this symptom, but it’s not any worse than the cleared background level.”

      2. Zombeyonce*

        I agree. I know that OP is putting this all on Stacey and she definitely did some major things wrong here, but they are excusing their company for everything when this all could have been avoided if the company had clear policies in place and a safety plan. Here’s a list of things the company could have done that would have helped and they apparently did none of these:
        -required masks
        -spaced desks
        -not allowed shared office supplies
        -had a policy about not coming into work with symptoms unless you’ve tested negative
        -allowed and even encouraged telework when possible
        -provided leave for quarantine after testing (before this incident)
        -provided leave after positive test
        -enforcing all of the above

        OP, if you’re reading this, Stacey did a lot of things wrong, but you’re placing all the blame on her and I think that’s misguided. I know you love your company, but they are to blame for not putting any safeguards in place for you and your coworkers and letting it get this far. COVID-19 hasn’t just popped up, it’s been around for months and they’ve had plenty of time to do all of this but they chose to ignore it and pretend like everything was normal until someone inevitably showed up at work and started coughing on everyone and everything. It was bound to happen with such negligence, even if it wasn’t Stacey that did it. It’s easy to put all your anger on someone that made bad choices, but she did what she thought was the right choice (even though it wasn’t) because there was no guidance telling her otherwise. This entire situation could have been avoided if only your company didn’t bury its head in the sand and fail to protect you.

        1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

          Hi, OP here. You know, I think everyone saying this actually has a valuable perspective that I didn’t really consider before. I was just very upset at Stacey when I wrote the letter, and I am still upset with her, but the company also has blame here. I think it’s true that the company could have definitely been doing more to crack down on this. I think they should have been requiring masks, they should have distanced us further apart, and they should have given us our own supplies. Even though I was sanitizing everything before and after I used it, I know it wasn’t enough. They did some things, like providing us with (cheap) masks (that we weren’t required to wear) and giving us hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies (without any guidance on using them). The company had an option to work from home and Stacey could have used it. I can’t really work from home because my role is very different from hers even though we work closely together, but Stacey had the option and chose to ignore it. Management also had the option to require her to get a test (they required me to get one) and chose to ignore that. So, I agree with you and everyone else saying it’s a systemic failure here and I’ll be more conscious of that aspect going forward. Thanks for your input.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            I’m glad to hear they did something (gave you some masks and hand sanitizer), but you’re right, doing that without guidance or enforcement isn’t helpful. It’s Step 1 in a 10-step process and they didn’t go any further. They really dropped the ball, especially since they had the option to require her to be tested when her symptoms were screaming out for that very option to be exercised.

    3. tangerineRose*

      Why did the supervisor tell the OP about this ‘in confidence”? Anyone who might have been exposed needs to know.

      1. Madeleine Matilda*

        There are privacy rules about sharing health information. I work for a large health related organization that has extensive screening, testing, and contact tracing for staff even though most of us are now WFH. If someone tests positive our organization will contact trace and tell any staff who had contact that they may have been exposed but they cannot tell staff who the infected staff person is due to privacy regulations. Presumably the supervisor was informing people who may have had contact but wasn’t able to say Stacy has COVID-19 to the entire office for similar reasons.

        1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

          Hi, OP here. You are correct. Everyone was just told that some unnamed person had tested positive and I and a few others were just told it was Stacey in confidence.

          1. Madeleine Matilda*

            And likely even if your manager hadn’t told you that Stacy was the infected person you would have easily deduced that it was Stacy since you work closely with her and seen her abrupt departure.

            1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

              Also true. I didn’t tell anyone it was her, but everyone figured it out pretty quickly.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          IIRC the workplace disclosure rules are somewhat different when it comes to communicable disease and people who might have been disclosed. I would have to look at my state’s specific statute to know whether the person could be named or not.

          1. fposte*

            If the feds say no, the state doesn’t get to say yes. Right now EEOC guidance is evolving but the word “confidentiality” is being used a lot.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              True, but IIRC the states handle some of the details. Then again, California is often stricter than the Federal government, which is why I look up the state rules first.

          2. lokilaufeysanon*

            They can trace people who have been or might have been exposed to an infectious disease without naming the individual. Many years ago, when I was living in Los Angeles, I got a call from the LA County Health Department asking me if I had been in a certain room at the university I was going to because someone with a specific and highly contagious disease had been on campus during the time I had been there. They did this without even identifying the person’s gender.

  2. cmcinnyc*

    Wow, that is awful. In the event that a transfer is not possible, could OP talk to her supervisor about rearranging the working environment so she doesn’t have to literally share space and supplies with Stacy? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say you have lost trust in her as a person and don’t want to put your health and safety in her hands in any way.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Also there is at least one report (from a very small sample size), that infection does not confer future immunity so this could happen again with Stacey if we’re all waiting 18 months or longer for a vaccine. So if you are to continue to work with Stacey, you have some science to back up not continuing to share space with a person who puts others’ health at such risk.

      I really hope that Stacey’s crying was because she learned her lesson, is terrified, and will never do this again. But I am not sure that Stacey does not remain one of the stupid, risky ones who is just upset/crying at being caught and disciplined at work.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I’d at least say I don’t want to share air with her now under the circumstances.

      But getting anyone away from coworkers is…yeah, I’ve been there and it’s tricky. I got away from people eventually but it wasn’t fast.

  3. Jennifer*

    Wow! Yes, it sounds like she had the ability to stay home and be paid if she suspected she was ill, so there was no reason for her to come to work beyond cruelty or ignorance. She should be let go but if she is not, I hope the powers that be take your concerns seriously and let one of you transfer to a different department.

    1. Vina*

      I’m surprised Allison isn’t coming down harder on this. People are being arrested and charged with A&B for coughing in other people’s faces in the US.

      This isn’t a garden variety situation where someone was sick and exposed others. This is a disease that can and has killed. Coming to work and risking exposure of other’s is playing Russian Roulette with their health. It’s morally risking someone else’s life. It’s also risking massive legal exposure for the company if they have a suspicion that Stacy has covid and aren’t making her leave or are, as here, effectively covering it up.

      I don’t trust Stacy. I don’t trust the supervisor.

      Covid kills. It’s not something you play around with.

      1. Atalanta0jess*

        I want to be careful that it doesn’t sound like I’m saying “Covid is like the flu” because I definitely am not. It’s much worse!

        But I wish more people would realize that coming to work sick is ALWAYS playing russian roulette with other people’s health. We don’t know who around us may be immunosuppressed or otherwise extra vulnerable to pneumonia, or flu, or whatever. Our culture is so cavalier about this, and so encouraging of working while sick. :(

        1. Vina*

          I absolutely agree. I understand some people have no choice. But a lot of people have a choice, they’d just rather have the extra $$$/not take vacation and risk other people than make a sacrifice themselves. Then there’s the whole fear of being punished if you do take time off, fear of appearing weak, etc.

          It’s sickening. In both senses of the word.

          1. Vina*

            This reminds me very much of the man who unloaded his moving van at 3 am on a weekday in my old apartment complex. When a bunch of us went out to tell I’m to stop, he whined that if he didn’t have it done by noon, he’d have to pay an extra $50. He’d rather we all not get a decent night’s sleep than to pay that extra $50. Even the man who told him he needed to be awake b/c he was a heavy equipment operator.

            People can be very selfish jerks over minor sacrifices.

        2. Fox*

          I never understood the Covid is like the flu argument anyway. The 1918 flu was literally the flu and was plenty dangerous.

          1. LQ*

            I fully support the COVID is the flu argument BECAUSE of this.

            If you really want to treat this like the risk it is you need to realize that the risk is bigger and broader than just COVID. The number of people filled with rage at folks who don’t wear masks but don’t get a flu shot baffle me beyond words. It is the flu. The flu kills too. Get a regular annual flu shot. Even if it isn’t 100% effective, it’s still an important tool in helping overall community health.

            1. Katrinka*

              I don’t think there are a lot of people who are mad about others not wearing masks but think no flu vaccine is OK. What I’m finding is that people who don’t want to wear masks are also most likely to not get flu vaccines.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              I wear masks, and get the flu shot through my work every year. I even push my wife to get hers.

              I get very irate at people who come to work sick and infect the whole office. I have left jobs that encouraged/required this type of thing. I have gotten pneumonia because of people with poor hygiene coming in sick, making me (a contractor at the time) lose three weeks of pay because they wouldn’t take three to five days off.

              COVID is a bad flu on steroids. It is more infectious because of the delay between contagiousness and recognizable symptoms. It is more lethal than the flu.

              But I can’t get behind “COVID is (just) the flu”, because more people survive the flu than survive COVID, COVID is so much more virulent than even the worst flu, and there’s no vaccine yet.

        3. allathian*

          Flu also kills an estimated 12,000 to 60,000 Americans *every year*, in spite of a vaccine, which many decline to take or can’t afford to pay for. In many countries, such as mine, there’s mandatory reporting of influenza just as there’s with COVID, but in the US the numbers are just estimates because the CDC doesn’t track them. Certainly COVID has so far killed twice as many people as the worst flu pandemic of the last decade and the numbers continue to rise, but that doesn’t mean that flu isn’t a real danger.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            There are those who don’t bother with the vaccine because it’s rather a hit-and-miss affair (the lab makes an educated guess as to which strain will take off).

            Also, it’s rather a hit-and-miss affair.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Coming to work sick is like playing Russian roulette precisely because we don’t know who is immuno compromised or vulnerable, sometimes they don’t know it themselves! Being cavalier is like playing Russian roulette, i.e. not taking something seriously.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          I thought Alison was being cautious out of consideration for the OP’s job. She’s new, and it sounds like a problem of workplace culture as well as Stacy’s asinine irresponsibility–they were sitting too close, they were sharing supplies, mask policy was not enforced. That isn’t just one person being a jerk. OP has every right to be enraged (and I think Stacey should be fired), but she probably needs her job and her health insurance right now, so there are good reasons to be careful in how she words her request to have Stacy take a long walk off a short pier.

      2. Courageous cat*

        This reminds me of the norovirus post that was in the “posts you may like” section recently. I was surprised by how not-seriously she took that situation too. They’re different things, but the outcome is the same: you exposed other people to a dangerous disease, and while it wasn’t intentional, it certainly wasn’t exactly innocent either.

        1. Vina*

          You take a firearm and pull the trigger and (1) don’t know for certain it’s not loaded and (2) don’t know for certain there’s absolutely no one in range of the shot, that’s reckless homicide. I didn’t know is not an excuse to recklessly kill someone in a situation you knew could be fatal.

          Morally, this is worse b/c while (1) is the same, (2) is not. Stacey knew there was someone in range. She may not have been 100% certain she was sick. She was 100% certain someone in a high risk group was around.

          When something is potentially fatal, you have to be dead certain you aren’t in that situation (be it a loaded gun or a deadly virus) if you are sure someone is in range.

          I don’t think protecting LWs job should come before protecting her life. If she gets the virus and it kills her, she won’t have job to go back to.

          This isn’t a normal situation. It’s a reckless risk of LW’s health and potentially her life. If I were in her shoes, I could not continue working with Stacey. I likely wouldn’t stay at the company if I had any choices t all.

  4. babblemouth*

    I’d be careful not to frame it as a “I can’t work with Stacy” issue because you might have to share the whole story, including the fact that your manager told you she was infected. IANAL, but it sounds like a HIPAA violation, and while I’m super sympathetic to him telling you about it (this is a rare case of morally appropriate violation of privacy IMO), it could land him in hot water as well.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s a ton of misinformation being thrown around here about HIPAA (which doesn’t apply to most employers) and the ADA. I’m removing most of it but leaving some accurate corrections.

    2. Marny*

      HIPAA doesn’t apply here at all. Only healthcare providers (and records custodians for healthcare providers) are subject to HIPAA.

    3. fposte*

      It looks like this is a bit of a legal mess right now. There are definitely legal opinions that the ADA does mean that, but there’s also at least one lawsuit against an employer for not warning employees. The EEOC doesn’t explicitly say you can’t give the name to other employees but repeatedly says COVID information is confidential and needs to be handled according to the ADA (I’ll put a link in followup). The advice I saw one lawyer give was to ask for the consent of the diagnosed person prior to sharing the info. If it’s not given, I don’t know that there’s a clear path for how wide a net you’d have to cast on warning people.

    4. tangerineRose*

      Yeah, if someone is infected with COVID-19, anyone who might have been infected by that person should know, shouldn’t they?

  5. Grumpy Lady*

    Im surprised her work didnt send her home when she first started showing symptoms. My work had someone cough once at the front door and they were told to go home. I hope you are ok LW. How terrifying.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      As long as the company is willing to pay them, sure. Because they’d be sending me home daily due to my sneezing and coughing from allergies. Unless they’d like a discrimination lawsuit, companies need to be very careful. Allergies are real. Chronic coughs are real. Asthma is real. They don’t necessarily indicate that someone has COVID.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Thank you. The main difference is a fever I’ve read. Allergies won’t cause a fever but COVID will.

        And allergies seem awful right now!

        1. AnotherAlison*

          COVID usually includes a fever, shortness of breath and cough, but not always.

          I’m pretty familiar with my allergy symptoms, and I think I’d know if it was something different *eventually*, but it would be easy to dismiss at first. She could have allergies and COVID. I used to get terrible seasonal allergies in June, and then a summer cold. You think it’s one thing, and then it’s another.

          1. I'm A Little Teapot*

            Agreed. I have a hard time sometimes knowing if its a cold or allergies. However, with a pandemic, I would prefer to avoid people in general. I don’t need dirty looks because I’m sneezing from allergies.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            And sometimes you don’t get any symptoms, which is why everyone should wear masks indoors all the time until it’s completely over.

        2. anon moment*

          I had COVID with no fever at all, just headache, sore throat, chills, chest pain, extreme fatigue, blah blah. No fevers, though!

          1. allathian*

            Yes, and this is one reason why taking people’s temperatures at the front door is ineffective.

        3. IndustriousLabRat*

          Yup. My company has been screening Every. Single. Employee. at the front door; every day, since late March, with a non-contact thermometer. Elevated temperature, no entry, go home. There was some initial grumbling, but….
          In a company of over 300 folks in a manufacturing environment, we still have not had a single case. Granted other precautions are being taken too, such as distancing, mandated go sit in the parking lot for lunch, sanitizer, masks, and a ban on interstate travel without HR notification. But the temperature check is cheap and simple!

          And while we’re on the topic… oh my is the pollen bad this year!

          1. allathian*

            Does wearing a mask outdoors help with the pollen at all?
            I live in an area where mask use hasn’t been mandated at any point and cases are declining, we haven’t had any deaths for more than a week, etc. I’m fortunate, and also still working from home until the end of August.

        4. MayLou*

          The UK recently updated its list of symptoms in recognition that one of the main symptoms has been loss of sense of taste/smell. I don’t remember the exact percentages but it’s far from 100% with a fever. Also it appears a lot of transmission is pre-symptomatic. At any rate, once someone has reached the stage of actually having a test, they should be isolating until they get the results. She should never have been in the building in the first place.

          1. Katrinka*

            I’ve trained as a contact tracer. One is infectious starting two days before symptoms start until one is fever-free (without meds) for three days AND symptoms are improving. The problem is that a lot of people are ignoring symptoms, even when they know they ahve been exposed. Which is whhy there’s such a push for contact tracers. Until there’s a robust program in place, people don’t know what the guidelines are and possible exposures aren’t being informed.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              Mad respect for you contact tracers! You folks are like Batman. You’re on the trail of a killer and you have to be the world’s greatest detectives!

        5. blackcat*

          When I had COVID, my fever was intermittent and low (like 99-100, when I normally run ~97). So fever isn’t actually the best screening tool. I had a moderate case–I had to get outpatient treatment for shortness of breath/difficulty breathing.
          Also, as someone with allergies/asthma, it was completely clear to me I was sick! But there’s such a range of symptoms, I understand how someone might not be able to tell the difference right away.

      2. GrumbleBunny*

        Nobody is arguing that allergies aren’t real. That being said, COVID also real and it makes sense to send an employee with symptoms home until they have a note from a doctor saying their symptoms aren’t caused by COVID.

        1. Sarah N*

          Especially now that testing is so much easier to get. It could be allergies, but just go get the freaking test and then you’ll know!

          1. Katrinka*

            There are a lot of places where the tests are still not very available and one has to jump through hoops to get one. Maryland has a great testing program and a lot more sites have opened, and the governor has asked that everyone who attended a protest or rally get tested. Which is great, but I called around for several days and even the “no appointment needed” places were requiring that we have symptoms before we could get tested. With so many cases that are asymptomatic, this is a dumb policy to have.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              I know we’re supposed to avoid politics here, and I’m trying, honestly. But damn, here we are in one of the richest countries in the world, months into a pandemic and it’s still extremely difficult in some areas to get tested?! It’s just plain inexcusable that testing isn’t widely available and easily accessible EVERYWHERE in this country. It’s also inexcusable that there has been such a widely varying patchwork of responses when it comes to things like masks, social distancing, stay at home orders, etc. We should ALL be on the same freaking page as nation, damn it!

              My state was hit relatively hard early on (at least in the urban and more densely pjopulated suburban areas), but things have settled down quite a bit by now, because our governor was very quick to issue a stay at home order and put various other measures in place. Things are g r a d u a l l y opening up now, in a very carefully measured way, just a few things at at a time, and as of now, masks are still mandated in indoor public places. But every time I turn on the news, I hear about states that n some cases never even had a full scale shutdown and then seemingly went ahead and flung up all the doors and windows at once (so to speak) and hardly anybody is wearing a mask, and SURPRISE SURPRISE, all of a sudden covid cases are soaring in those places! It just makes me want to scream, and I feel so bad for the people living in those areas, especially the health care workers who are being worked to exhaustion and risking their owned damned lives taking care of all those desperately sick people.

              Now, I know all areas don’t need to follow the exact same measures; sparsely populated rural areas are different from densely populated cities, etc. But tr response to this thing needs need to be a lot more consistent and better organized everywhere, and certain things (like large indoor gatherings, for instance) should be banned nationwide. There should also be a nationally coordinated and centralized program for testing and contact tracing. The list goes on and on.

              There’s more I could say, but I’ll stop here and hope I haven’t already crossed any lines I shouldn’t have crossed. Apologies in advance for any typos since I don’t have time to carefully copy edit this teal deer of a post!

      3. kittymommy*

        Thank you for this. My allergies and asthma are very much a thing, especially right now in Florida. Heck, I’m allergic to cut grass and I can’t get away from that. If I got sent home because of sneezing and coughing I’d be home about 10 months out of the year.

          1. Colette*

            Get tested daily? I also have a chronic cough. If I got tested for COVID today, there’d be no way to know whether I have it next week. I’ll still be coughing!

            I am working from home and wearing a mask in public, but if I were going in to the office and had to get a test whenever i coughed, I wouldn’t be in the office.

            1. blackcat*

              FWIW, I live somewhere where you can get tested for funsies, and even our testing center caps frequency at every 7 days unless you are a first responder/healthcare worker. General folks, even those in relatively high risk jobs (ex: grocery store workers), can only get tested once a week.

              1. Colette*

                Yeah, anyone who wants a test can get a test here, but … I have no reason to believe I have been exposed to the virus. I’ve been home since March except for runs to the store, and I wear a mask when I’m in public.

                And I’ve had this cough since 2008, so it’s not COVID.

                1. Liane*

                  Then maybe you should get tested –not every day — for your own safety. That cough you’ve had for a dozen years, your asthma & allergy symptoms will mask some or all COVID-19 symptoms if you did contract the virus.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This is me as well. I’ve had hay fever type allergies my whole life, and spend the whole spring/early summer sneezing and sniffly. My employer did send us home for quite a while to work from home, and is just now pulling us back into the office. Employer has also published, and re-prints bi-weekly, the “what to do if you think you may have/have been exposed to COVID” plan.

      5. Spencer Hastings*

        Well, a person with allergies could *also* be an asymptomatic COVID carrier. So frequent sneezing is a problem, regardless of why someone is sneezing. Right?

        1. Baffled by the Callousness*

          This exactly. The symptoms could be 100% from allergies. But in the middle of a pandemic, those allergy sneezes are *dangerous*. At the bare bare minimum, she should be required to wear a mask, and Ms. Snottyhands should not be sharing supplies with coworkers.

          1. Double A*

            Though if you have allergies AND covid and are sneezing a lot, the sneezing does make the spreading worse!

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Ding! Ding! Ding!

              COVID is spread via exhaled droplets, like from breathing, talking, singing, yelling, coughing, sneezing, etc. If I’m having an allergy attack, and *might* have COVID (which is anyone), I’m wearing a mask, maybe lined with tissues to catch my sneezes.

              1. TurtleIScream*

                Since we want to isolate all allergy sufferers indefinitely, can we also ban Mark the Loud Talker from public spaces? I guarantee he is expelling more droplets per hour than I am.

                1. Arts Akimbo*

                  As an allergy sufferer, I would voluntarily ban myself from the public spaces in order to save everyone from Mark the Loud Talker!

        2. SweetestCin*

          Which is exactly why I’m wearing a mask when I’m outside of my office (as in, internal room that is mine, not the overall building). I have wicked bad allergies and asthma. I cannot drug myself to the point of no allergy symptoms without being passed out cold. Therefore, I social-distance myself and mask up so that I keep my germs to myself.

          I mean, my allergies were bad enough that my first grade teacher had to be told by my doctor to stop calling my Dad to come get me from school as the daily calls were putting his job at risk, especially since I wasn’t sick. (This waaaay predates FMLA or any decent allergy meds!)

        3. boop the first*

          Here, in BC, even allergy symptomatic people are greatly discouraged from entering places of business, mask or no. My husband’s been downing OTC anti-allergen pills pretty much daily for months now to avoid sneezing, and it seems to be working.

      6. LunaLena*

        The three most common symptoms of COVID-19 is coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. Sneezing is not one of them. I agree that neither sneezing nor coughing necessarily indicates that someone has COVID-19, but I think a noticeable cough is a valid cause for concern and precautions. I’m not saying people should be sent home for choking on their water, but where I work if someone coughed constantly in a meeting it would prompt others to ask if they are feeling okay and that the cougher should make sure they aren’t exhibiting other symptoms, and I think that that’s totally reasonable.

        1. Vina*

          Plus, people who have “mild” and asymptomatic Covid can still transmit it when they cough.

          She could have a mild allergy plus Covid and end up being Typhoid Mary.

        2. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          As someone who has a very nasty case of COPD, I feel it is important here to note that the cough associated with COVID is a dry, non productive cough.

          I have a productive cough constantly throughout the day. In fact, I just had a massive coughing attack, tears pouring down my face, the whole thing….from my COPD. I’d never be able to work if I was sent home every time I coughed. And I’ve been tested twice now for the ‘rona. Both tests negative.

          1. Caroline Bowman*

            Yes, but you have been tested and obviously are aware and alert to any weird symptoms and not shy to address any illness.

            Where I am, once you go for a test, as in, suspect you may have it, you are required to not come back to work until you get a negative result at all. Not for any reason. So assuming at least a day or two between going for the test and getting the result (or much longer!), Stacy should not have been at work at all during that intervening time. I do understand allergies, I have them and they are ANNOYING and go on and on, but I wear a mask and sanitise and if there were to be any weird other symptoms or I had to be in close proximity regularly with someone else / share office supplies, I’d make certain of what my status.

            That was really irresponsible of Stacy, I don’t blame the OP for being furious.

      7. Littorally*

        Oh, please. Being sent to WFH because you’re showing symptoms that may be covid-related is not discrimination.

        1. lokilaufeysanon*

          Not everyone can work from home. Not everyone gets paid leave. Not everyone would be able to stay home for two weeks and have a job to come back to – especially now with stay-at-home orders either being lifted by state governments or by courts. (I know that is not the case for “Stacy,” but it is the case for a lot of people in the US.)

      8. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        I have horrible sinuses despite surgery on them, with post nasal drip and mild coughing. It’s not a constant thing. But I cannot say that just because I have allergies or bad sinuses, I do not have covid-19. They are not mutually exclusive. I have worked at home for years, but if I did work in the office, I would not be offended if I was asked to test. It’s a pandemic and safeguarding public health requires some sacrifice on everyone’s part, even if it just means always wearing masks in the summer heat. It doesn’t sound like Stacy even did that much. She probably didn’t keep her hands sanitized either. I despise selfish uninformed people like Stacy. Too bad she had to get infected to make a believer out of her, but howmany otheres did she infect in the process?

        All my sympathy is with OP.

      9. ToS*

        There is a solid link to EEOC guidance above on COVID in the workplace. The supervisor can refer OP and Stacey toward an accommodation process. The tricky part is many people with allergies don’t have great documentation. OP could also ask for work site relocation or WFH as an accommodation if they engage with the ADA process based on their personal immuno-compromised situation. It’s an option for people who are at risk, especially if the employer is not doing well with health and safety protocols (5 feet?) Stacey is the unfortunate tip of the iceberg. I hear the outrage, but all of us can only engage with best practices, as virus transmission is beyond personal detection. Maybe ask for your own WFH while employer does a deep clean? Does WFH mean something negative in work culture, or is it more, you-do-you with supervisor blessing?

        I was at a Socially Distant funeral when the celebrant coughed on communion, cited allergies. My whole family sat it out.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      My office is checking everyone’s temperature at the door before you’re allowed in the building!

      1. allathian*

        Not very useful, someone could be an asymptomatic carrier without having a fever. According to some estimates, up to 35 percent of people with COVID could be asymptomatic. Also, you can have the dry cough and lose your sense of smell and taste without running a fever.
        I’m also one of those people who almost never get a fever, but I’m still sick. I’ve even had influenza without fever. The times I do get a fever, I’m almost always delirious. Yay!
        I guess I should keep a closer track of my normal body temperature to get a proper baseline.

    3. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I think this is mostly on the workplace. There should have been precautions in place – spacing employees, not sharing supplies, masks, possibly temperature checks, and definitely better monitoring of symptoms. Any symptoms should require a test. People in normal workplaces aren’t doctors. How could Stacey really know whether her symptoms were allergies? How could her manager know? This is also on the public health system wherever she is. In my state, once you get a test, you have to quarantine until you know the results. She should not have been allowed to return to work after her test.

      I had COVID back in early March. It started with five days of a runny nose and sneezing. No fever, no cough, no shortness of breath. I was convinced it was a regular cold based on all of the reporting at the time. I wore a mask on public transit and washed my hands before and after I touched anything just to be safe, and reassured the one coworker I ran into that there was no way it could be COVID. Then it turned into a cough. I started staying home just in case, but I was still convinced it was bronchitis because it wasn’t a dry cough and I still didn’t have a fever. Tests were hard to get at the time, so I didn’t bother to try. I also didn’t want to risk catching COVID going in for the test. Spoiler alert, I was wrong. It was COVID, confirmed by a later antibody test.

      We just don’t know that much about the disease yet, and the symptoms vary widely and overlap with other things. If you do have to continue to work with Stacey, it might help to mentally give her the benefit of the doubt. She probably genuinely thought it was allergies, and expected her test to come back negative. It will probably be more productive to push for better policies at your workplace so this doesn’t happen again, no matter what any one individual does.

    4. Stacey's Victim- OP*

      Hi, OP here. Thank you and everyone else for the kind wishes. I have not received my test results yet and am understandably anxious over the whole thing, but I haven’t been having any symptoms and I’m hopeful that I dodged that bullet.

    5. KR*

      Same, I’m surprised (not actually surprised but *shrug emoji*) they even let this person in the door. My employer is also doing temp checks at the door for larger offices and telling everyone with any of the symptoms to stay home just in case. Stacey shouldn’t have even been allowed to come back in the building after she tested positive (coworkers could have gotten some gloves and packed her stuff up to send to her).

  6. Krakatoa*

    I really, really, really hope we get an update to this at some point in the future. This just enrages me.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yeah. I could forgive Stacy for really thinking her symptoms were allergies. But she went to get tested and told nobody! If you suspect that you have it enough to get a swab shoved up into your brain, then you should stay home while you await the results!

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        Many people can’t afford that. It appears that this company has no policy in place. OP mentioned that supervisor said ” I would have let her work from home.” That’s easy to say but why wasn’t there a policy? And many people I know are getting tested because they are curious. And no, they aren’t staying home. They couldn’t afford it.

    2. Stacey's Victim- OP*

      Hi, OP here. I will definitely update in a few weeks and let everyone know how it shakes out. I love the update posts so much that I would never deprive anyone else of them!

  7. agnes*

    This is a company problem, not just your problem. Your company needs to have procedures in place that clearly outline everyone’s responsibilities as it relates to COVID-19. I hope you will go to HR and express your concerns but also ask them what they plan to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future. At my company, we all received information on the protocols to take if you are symptomatic, if you have been exposed to COVID, if you are awaiting test results, doing a daily check in of your symptoms before you walk through the door, etc etc etc.

    You don’t have to reinvent the wheel–the health dept can help with this, as can SHRM. It doesn’t matter how big or how small your organization is, you need these protocols and what happened here is inexcusable.

    1. agnes*

      And note, your organization could have also extended paid leave to a symptomatic employee while awaiting test results. They would be within their rights to send her home if she’s symptomatic and pay her to stay home pending test results. That’s what we do. And many employers will receive either reimbursement or a tax credit for wages paid while awaiting these test results under the FFCRA.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      Important to note–if you are in New York (or NJ, CT, DE, MA) the guidelines are clear, just about everybody has gotten the memo, and the Dept of Health will help you. If you are in a state that has its fingers in its ears singing LA LA LA LA LA you may be out of luck on guidance/enforcement.

    3. megaboo*

      I would isolate and get tested if possible. You have a very clear line of transmission and it would be worth the peace of mind.

      1. Katrinka*

        LW has stated that they are doing this and company is paying her without making her WFH. I suspect they realize just how much they’ve screwed up.

    4. Anon Anon*

      I completely agree. This is the organization’s problem.

      If someone could come to work showing symptoms of COVID-19 and be close enough to another person in the building to infect them, then that is an organizational problem. Socially distancing isn’t practical for all jobs, but it sounds like for the OP that she’s in an office job where social distancing and masks absolutely should be standard protocol. If employers are going to have their employees working in their offices then they must have specific procedures about how to protect their employees and what they will do when they have an employee who develops COVID.

    5. Stacey's Victim- OP*

      Hi, OP here. I admit that I didn’t really look at it from this perspective before, but, after reading a lot of the comments here, my eyes have been opened to the fact that, while Stacey acted terribly, the company enabled her to do so. They could have done a lot more to protect me and others and didn’t. They gave us masks, but didn’t require that we use them. They gave us cleaning supplies, but didn’t direct us on how to use them. They didn’t encourage us to social distance or separate our desks. They didn’t provide us with information or training. They gave us options like WFH and paid sick leave, but didn’t really lay out clear guidelines. I really appreciate the different perspectives. The commentariat has given me a lot to think about.

    6. Curmudgeon in California*

      We actually had an everyone training of dealing with this. If people go in to the office, they have to fill out a form to determine if they are allowed to come in. This training also covered PPE, sanitizing, distancing, etc. Not following these guidelines could be a cause for being fired.

      Yes, it’s a university with an attached hospital that is on the forefront of COVID-19 research. But there is zero reason that other institutions and companies can’t do the same thing.

  8. MPS*

    This is awful. I hope you didn’t catch it from her. Her behavior is reprehensible and you’re right to never want to work with her again.

  9. Marny*

    The LW should also be enraged that it doesn’t sound like her workplace in general is doing much to ensure health and safety for the employees.

    1. WellRed*

      Yeah, I’d be mad at Stacey, but from the info here, the company laid the foundation for exactly this scenario.

    2. fposte*

      Yes, I agree. People have already remarked on the absence of proper distancing and no mention of masks; I’ll add that it’s great that they’re telling the OP she’ll get paid leave, but did Stacey and other employees know that was there for them?

      1. Zombeyonce*

        From how it’s worded, it doesn’t sound like any of that was available until after the Stacey Incident.

        1. fposte*

          That’s my read on it. I mean, I get that it’s complicated to be an employer right now too, but unless Alison sat on this letter for months it’s not like COVID was a surprise. Intentional or not, their policy seems to have been take no precautions until it’s already in the office and let the canary in the coalmine take the blame.

    3. AnonAnon*

      Exactly. So I don’t think a transfer will solve the issue. They could be transferring into the same situation and with a department that is just as lax.

    4. Glitsy Gus*

      Yes. The main reason my office hasn’t reopened is because we have one of those horrible open office plans. There is no way to stay 6′ away from each other, even if only 50% of the staff is on site. So we are not open. Simple as that.

      OP, while I totally understand your anger at Stacy, save a little for your company as well. If WFH is possible (as you’ve mentioned in other threads it is) and if there is no way to effectively allow employees to socially distance in the office, none of you should be in that office. On top of that, it also sounds like there are no mask requirements, temperature checks, required disinfecting etc. happening that could have helped tip the scales on Stacy getting checked sooner or at least not getting as many of her germs into your space. That is 100% on them.

  10. AppleStan*

    Managers should not be discussing anyone’s health situation with other employees. They could easily have said “an employee has tested positive and we will be doing XYZ to protect the office.” There is no way anyone should be identified by management as having *any* disease. Will people figure it out when Stacy is gone for two weeks or longer? Sure. That doesn’t mean that management should be naming Stacy. Their immediate supervisor definitely needs some retraining.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      As Stacy’s co-worker, sitting next to her for 2 weeks, having asked the manager about Stacy’s symptoms and having highlighted OP’s higher vulnerability, it is reasonable for the manager to explain OP’s heightened risk, and the manager can not do that without naming Stacy.

      It’s different during a pandemic. This is not ‘Stacy’s got cancer / kidney disease / strained muscles’, this is ‘The person who’s been sitting next to you was sick with something that may kill you.’ That’s not just a legit thing to say, it’s a *required* thing to say.

      1. fposte*

        I agree with you in a logical way, but it really does look like that naming a diagnosed COVID person without the consent of the person is considered a breach of the ADA. Tiffif upthread reported a really good protocol from her office, where they just informed people that there was a COVID-positive person working near them and they’d been exposed. While people may be able to guess the person as a result, that seems likeliest to satisfy the law and the need to inform.

        1. tangerineRose*

          The only problem is that in a big company, it may be hard to know everyone who might have been infected. If Sally from the other side of the building and Stacey had a long conversation in the lunch room a few days ago, will anyone notify Sally that she might have been infected? Sally might not know until she realized that Stacey’s been gone for a while.

          1. Ashley*

            I think this goes to contact tracing and why some normal privacy things are slightly waived. During normal times I would not let my employer know my temperature every day but this is a pandemic.

            1. fposte*

              They’re waived for the health departments; that doesn’t mean they’re waived for the managers in the office.

              1. Katrinka*

                They are also waived for companies afa temperature and symptom checks. And asking that employees who are at a higher risk and need to make alternate accommodations notify HR or a designated person, so they can work together to figure it out.

                And even health departments and contact tracers cannot tell anyone who exposed them. The msot they can say is when and where they were exposed |(“on the 12th, at the library, you were in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19”). Contact tracers are working for the health department, which is why they are given the contact information, but they are bound to the same confidentiality rules as any other health department worker.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, the EEOC explicitly allows employers to make temperature checks, etc., and then is clear that they are bound to confidentiality about the findings under the ADA. I think we’re in agreement, but I wanted to make it clear that the law’s allowing employers to take such measures doesn’t relieve them of the burden of confidentiality.

        2. Cat*

          Probably better practice but in reality I don’t think this will ever come back to bite them and nor should it. I emailed around about this at the beginning of the Pandemic and our lawyer said there’s a lot more leeway legally now than there normally is and I can’t imagine the distinction between “Stacey” and “someone who works within a six feet distance of you on a daily basi will ever matter.

      2. Katrinka*

        Nope. The supervisor absolutely could and should have said simply that someone in the office tested positive and because of proximity, the employee needs to take the following steps. But also, Stacy should not have been coming back to get her stuff. The manager could have packed up what she needed, met her outside, and put it into her passenger seat (or the back seat) without contact. Or had someone else meet up with her. I don’t think they knew until Stacy showed up upset after getting her results, but that is the recommended protocol. If that protocol had been followed, all the coworkers would have been told was that someone tested positive, and based on proximity, which ones needed to go home to quarantine.

        They probably would have figured out that it was Stacy, but they’re not violating any expectation of confidentiality (while not subject to HIPAA per se, usually employee records and private medical information are considered confidential and only disclosed on a need to know basis).

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Not really. I get that it’s scary, but you don’t need to know that Stacy specifically tested positive to also know that you are a person who should take some extra precautions at the moment.

            The manager can tell the folks in that person’s department/who they work closely with that someone in the dept. tested positive, that it would be a really good idea for you to get tested, and you should WFH for the next two weeks. Stacy’s name does not need to come into it to pass on that information. Will folks likely figure it out? Of course, but the manager doesn’t need to name them from the get go to get the relevant folks aware that they should take extra precautions.

            I don’t know that it’s legally necessary, but just as a basic policy you don’t need to ‘name and shame’ someone just to tell the relevant people to go get tested themselves. Also, there IS shame here, coworkers WOULD view that person differently, even if they were the unlucky one who did everything right and caught it anyway. If that situation can be avoided from a management standpoint, it should.

            1. lokilaufeysanon*

              THIS. I can’t believe some of the comments in this post. OP definitely would have figured it out, given the circumstances, but there was no reason the manager needed to confirm it to them, regardless of their previous discussions with the manager.

            2. allathian*

              Yeah. Stacy was thoughtless and I sure hope that she’s learned her lesson. That said, I’m not sure it helped the OP at all to know that Stacy got infected. This way it’s going to be hard if not impossible for the OP to work closely with Stacy in future. If they only suspected it was so but without a firm confirmation, it might have been easier to move forward after this. YMMV, but there’s still a reason to keep medical details confidential, or at least to not officially confirm any rumors that are circulating, even if the employees can put two and two together.

    2. Reluctant Manager*

      “An employee has tested positive. Knowing that the number of viral particles you’re exposed to is a factor in transmission, you should be aware that they sit within 5 feet and handle many of the same work materials as you on a daily basis.” More kosher, but a distinction without a difference.

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yeah no, this is the foundation of contact tracing. You had close contact with someone who is COVID positive and now you must quarantine. If we followed that rule, we’d just have an unchecked epidemic.

    4. Mimmy*

      I agree with this in general. However, wouldn’t contract tracing require that the employer at least let OP know that Stacy was infected since they share an office?

      1. Katrinka*

        No. They should simply tell them they were in close proximity to someone who has tested positive, and either give them the recommended quarantine guidelines and list of symptoms from the health department or put them in touch with the health department. The employee may be able ti figure out who it is, but the company has not violated any guidelines.

    5. TiredMama*

      I honestly see no reason to not share this information. In general, managers should not share information about employee health. But that does not extend to illnesses like covid, flu, etc. that other people can easily catch through everyday contact with their co-worker (as opposed to an STD).

    6. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

      I vehemently disagree. Covid-19 is like a loaded gun residing inside a person. It can graze or kill, depending upon who it lands on. AIDS and venereal diseases have long required contact tracing/disclosure of contacts to protect public health. Why should covid be any different, with no real treatment or vaccine, and little scientific knowledge about the virus itself? Too much pearl-clutching here over the privacy of some and not enough over the very real risk to public health.

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Contact tracing has been woefully missing as part and parcel of the totally inadequate pandemic response in the US. It’s a proven outbreak control public health tool that has been used in all prior viral outbreaks, but for some reason not this one due to politicization of the virus. So, Stacy should have no expectation of privacy in a pandemic,none of us should.

        Imma leave this thread alone.

        1. Katrinka*

          Contact tracing is ramping up in most states (well after it should have started IMO), but the lack of any still does nto negate the employees right to privacy. As with HIV or any other infectious disease, the most even the health department can do is tell someone that they were exposed and when (and maybe where). And the manager should have received permission from upper management before saying anything, the company may have had a designated person (usually HR, as they’re more equipped with lists of resources) to inform employees.

          1. V8 Fiend*

            +1! Partner’s job (essential, they’ve been in the office this whole time with very strict safety regulations) has had one positive case. They’ve managed to do contract tracing and make sure all parties potentially exposed know without ever stating the positive person’s name. It’s possible to be safe and responsible without violating privacy.

      2. lokilaufeysanon*

        Do you honestly think COVID-19 is the only highly contagious disease that can kill people in this world or something? JFC, you don’t need to know the name of an infected individual. That’s not pearl clutching. Once you open that box, you may never shut it again.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, but AIDS and venereal diseases are a lot harder to catch than airborne diseases, because to catch one, you have to share body fluids, either through intercourse or possibly blood transfusion.

  11. Bookworm*

    I don’t have any advice, but I am so sorry. Hoping you test is negative and hopefully everyone else is, too. I’m glad your management is being proactive and you have leave, etc, but yeah. I think you have a good case in getting away from her ASAP and I hope they work with you and keep you and the rest of your co-workers safe.

    1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

      Hi, OP here. Thank you and everyone else for the kind wishes. I really appreciate it. I haven’t received my test results yet, but I’m not showing any symptoms and I’m hopeful that I dodged that bullet.

  12. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’m assuming that from the mention of ‘not sanitising things or masking’ in the letter that Stacey has not been doing these things at work either? If so, I’d certainly talk to higher ups about getting some mandatory procedures put in place such as wearing masks and being as clean as possible.

    If they won’t let you move departments maybe you could ask to just be moved physically further away from Stacey. I really hope the company realises that the pandemic isn’t over, and without strict procedures this kind of thing will start occurring more (especially if you’re working with ‘it’s no big deal’ types).

    My sincerest support to you OP. This is one of my personal nightmares, I’m slightly panicked just reading this! I don’t blame you for being angry/scared/any emotion really.

  13. Important Moi*

    My state is being reopened. I know people who have doubts about the seriousness of COVID-19 and have made the choice to not social distance nor wear a mask. In fact, they’ve never social distanced or worn a mask. I know people who are using the inconsistent messaging of the US government as justification for not abiding by CDC guidelines. Fortunately, I don’t have to be in close proximity to them. I will forever look at those people askance going forward. It has changed my relationship with those people.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I find it interesting that the order says, “wear a mask”. It does NOT say, “Wear a mask IF you think Covid is a threat.” That’s not what is says. Believe whatever you want, put the d@mn mask on and sanitize. It’s pretty straight forward, it’s not complex at all.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        Seriously- the whole “masks prevent others catching it from you if you’re a carrier” thing seems to be lost on that crowd. I don’t care if you can afford to take the risk, or “aren’t scared”, but you don’t get to risk the health and lives of others by deciding not to wear a mask. You wear one so you don’t accidentally kill someone’s grandmother, and we do the same to protect your grandmother/your asthmatic friend/etc. Period.

        1. Pommette!*

          Yes! CoViD is *really* low on the long list of things I’m personally worried about right now. But I was lucky enough to get “masking is a pro-social act” early and clearly, and I don’t go out in public without my it.

          It’s strange to see the number of otherwise nice people who don’t bother. Every public place – the store, the restaurant, the subway, the library, the office – is someone else’s workplace. You shouldn’t endanger people when they are trapped at work, and can’t choose to simply avoid you. It’s basic decency.

    2. Cinnamon*

      No shirt, no shoes, no service has been around for years and yet no one had huge fights about it outside of a Target like the requirement of a mask on private property does.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I don’t understand why adherents of the pro-business “rights” party suddenly get bent out of shape about their “freedom” when a business chooses to regulate what people wear on their property. I mean, when restaurants can insist on “formal attire if you want to be served”, I don’t see what the problem is when a business says “masks must be worn in our store”.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yep. Anyone who blows off the risks of COVID-19 is someone I consider to be lacking basic social responsibility and even basic caring about other people. I know that they consider their own comfort ahead of my, and others, lives. They are not my friend, ever.

      I haven’t asked my sister if her household is being sane about this thing. They aren’t stupid, but they are deep in the “religious conservative” bubble. Her husband is immunocompromised, too, but he’s the biggest dittohead of the family. Since she lives a couple thousand miles away, I don’t have to worry about the risk, but I worry about her family. It has definitely changed our relationship.

  14. Paulina*

    While I agree that Stacy can be excused for not announcing her positive result to the OP, she shouldn’t have been at her desk close to the OP to pack up her things. This office needs to look carefully at their processes for handling positive results. They also need to revise what they need from employees who are symptomatic, since being someone who gets severe allergies isn’t a shield against also getting COVID.

    Definitely agree with the cautious approach to trying to avoid working with Stacy in future.

    1. tangerineRose*

      I wonder if Stacy packed up her things before she told anyone she tested positive.

  15. Aquawoman*

    While not excusing Stacy, this company at minimum put people in close proximity (desk cluster) without requiring masks even when someone was symptomatic. That alone is just the worst. But if they work at desks, can they really not work from home? Did Stacy not have sick leave and kept coming to work because she didn’t want to go without pay? The manager didn’t GAF about the LW’s health because the company doesn’t GAF about their employees’ health.

    1. Smithy*

      For all of these reasons, I think the OP needs to be mindful of where anger is being directed and what can reasonably be achieved. I think for many of us with allergies/asthma – there have been moments of “COVID or pollen??” And while thus far I think the answer to my health has entirely been allergies, or barely detectable COVID – having a workplace/boss that provides offices/desks that allows for socially distancing and actively encourages working from home/taking days off if there are any questions is as important as what Stacey herself was doing.

    2. Calanthea*

      I’m with you on this. I get hayfever, and I’d definitely assume any sniffles I have are that, rather than C-19. I mean, if you live somewhere cases are still rising then yes, be extra careful, but if you’re still going into work and there’s no pressure to wear masks I guess the OP is somewhere where cases are low?
      It’s possible that Stacey has allergies and asymptomatic C-19, got tested because someone she knows tested positive, and then left as quickly as she could. It sounds as the the OP is pretty done with Stacey, and that’s understandable. But I doubt Stacey intended to hurt anyone, and if I’m going to blame anyone, it’s the office for not making it a safe place overall. You’re point about sick pay is very strong.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        Stacy may not have intended to hurt anyone, but she also didn’t intend to protect anyone. This is the story WAY too many places. “Oh well it’s just old people and people with underlying conditions who will die, not me.” Great! Thanks for telling us who you are. Unfortunately, some of these people are governors of states. Good luck out there. Stay safe. (Speaking from NYC, the former epicenter, this can get really bad, really fast.)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          And I’ve just heard an ex-coworker of mine has booked for her and her kids to have a 2 week holiday in NYC (we live in the UK) flying out this weekend because they believe the whole panic is over, that it was never a big deal anyway….

          (She’s apparently arguing with her boss though because this was a last minute booking and the firm wants her quarantined when they get back, no coming to any workplace for at least 2 weeks)

          1. Smithy*

            I entirely understand being mad at individuals for not protecting coworkers and the generally public – but I just think this is a level of misplaced anger, when it’s far more productive to ask our workplaces to take measures to ensure safety of all workers. Your ex-coworker – it’s her workplace saying “hey, if you want to do that, so be it – but this is how we’re maintaining the overall safety of our staff and office”.

            I work for a very large organization that in many ways was taking COVID seriously, but was also slow to commit to large scale “everyone work from home all the time”. As a result, there was a day in the office where there was a panic of everyone being told to leave the office as quickly as possible due to potential exposure. The organization did take aggressive proactive measures afterwards to assume safety – but had someone only working with us for a few months said “because I know that it was XYZ person who exposed me, I want to be transferred to another team” – that request would have been flatly denied. Instead, overall office measures and precautions would have been shared to demonstrate how overall staff safety was being taken very seriously going forward.

            1. pancakes*

              A nice idea, but I’m not sure it is more productive. It’s abundantly clear, for example, that widely available testing and healthcare not tied to one’s employer would be much better for the safety of all workers, but in the US we don’t have either. We don’t even have many people advocating for either, though hopefully that’s beginning to change.

          2. Ali G*

            Ah, even if she gets here, she may not be getting back. Most places aren’t letting people in from the US.

          3. pancakes*

            FYI, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut today approved a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone traveling in from a “hotspot,” defined as any state where more than 10% of people are testing positive. Each state will be doing its own enforcement. I’m not sure how this applies to visitors from abroad, but the first fine for violation here in NY is $2,000 and the second fine is $5,000.

        2. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          The current surge has many young people infected. The virus doesn’t required an ID check before taking hold of people.

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          I absolutely abhor that mindset. As if people like me and my daughter are disposable just because we have asthma and food allergies. Really sheds light on how much people value each other, doesn’t it? (Also borders on ableism, if you ask me.)

        4. Curmudgeon in California*

          “Oh well it’s just old people and people with underlying conditions who will die, not me.” Great! Thanks for telling us who you are.

          I hate that attitude. I’m older, overweight (damn genetics), disabled, and living with people at even greater risk. These ******** who would just write off people like me and my household are the most selfish, unrealistic scum around.

          The fact that these jackasses can’t even be bothered to protect others because they don’t see others as “worthy” of protection is disgusting. I keep wishing karma on these people.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        Stacey didn’t run around purposely coughing on people, but she went to non-essential places without doing basic safety measures. She ignored symptoms; when she did test positive, she returned to her workplace (still without a mask!) to box up her things.

        There’s plenty of reasons to be mad at Stacey.

        1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          Sure is! She couldn’t have found anything to cover her face with knowing she tested positive? Stacy just didn’t GAF.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. If I was charitable I’d have tried to give Stacey a mask to start with. If she had rejected it, I would have started WFH out of self preservation. Life’s too short to be near people who have a disregard for the lives and health of others.

      3. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        You’re nice to think Stacy didn’t intend to hurt anyone. She actually didn’t care if she hurt anyone or not. Intent doesn’t matter anyway, she behaved recklessly.

      4. blackcat*

        “you’re still going into work and there’s no pressure to wear masks I guess the OP is somewhere where cases are low”

        I would not make that guess. I have a friend in AZ where non-essential businesses are open, no one is wearing masks, and cases are rising very fast (I think fastest on a per-capita basis of any state in the US). Meanwhile, I’m in the northeast, our numbers are much lower now, and folks mask up appropriately.

      5. LJay*

        “but if you’re still going into work and there’s no pressure to wear masks I guess the OP is somewhere where cases are low?”

        I don’t think that’s a safe assumption to make at all.

        I travel a lot for work, and I just got to an area that’s number of COVID cases are spiking. And it’s spiking because the state has reopened and people are carrying on like normal and there is no social pressure to wear a mask. (If anything there is social pressure to not wear a mask. I’ve come from an area where it’s required and feels natural to me at this point and I now feel awkward because I am the only one wearing one among tons of people who are not). And there’s social pressure to go out and do things.

        But they didn’t stop wearing masks and stop socially distancing and socially isolating because it was safe not to. They did it because the issue became politicized and their side is sending the message that those things aren’t as important as going out and living their life and getting the economy running.

        1. Anxious cat servant*

          Truth right here. I’m in one of the states that apparently thinks there’s a prize for having the most cases and yet masks and social distancing are just not happening. Especially within offices. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if there’s an inverse relationship between pressure to wear masks and number of cases in the community.

    3. LGC*

      Depends. I’m outing myself a bit, but my employees have “desk jobs”…scanning official documents and correcting the images and OCR. The OCR correction can possibly be done from home, but the image correction and scanning can’t (special scanners, we are not allowed to take the physical documents off premises).

      1. Eva Luna*

        Then they should be able to go in occasionally to scan a bunch of documents, then stay at home to do the OCR? Thereby reducing substantially the number of people in the office at any given time, correct? And thereby reducing each employee’s exposure?

  16. xristiana*

    the OP said stacy had “sniffling”, which is not a symptom of COVID, soo maybe there was reason for stacy to think she had sniffles? don’t agree w/ her attitude about it all, but mayyybe she really thought it was.

    1. Formica Dinette*

      According to the CDC, one of the symptoms of COVID-19 is “congestion or runny nose.”

      1. Cheluzal*

        One, Which is why everyone usually asked for the trifecta of sniffly, dry cough, and fever. Nowhere did we hear Stacy had a dry cough or a fever so I absolutely believe she initially thought it was allergies

        1. xristiana*

          i never condoned stacy’s actions at all, to be clear. i just understand where she might’ve truly thought that. i didn’t know that congestion/runny nose could be a symptom, it’s one of the least-mentioned symptoms. i looked at 4 different CDC pages and PDFs before i saw it mentioned on a list.

        2. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          Thanks for the rules lawyering, which is not helpful. Little is known about the coronavirus that leads to covid-a9. Symptoms are all over the place, some have diarrhea, some do not, etc.

          1. xristiana*

            i wasn’t trying to do that or do anything. i wasn’t trying to make a statement or anything, i was just saying i honestly had no idea. i know that symptoms are across the board. i just had no idea that sniffling or nasal congestion was one of those rare ones that exist in some people. every time i sniffle i think, “ok i’m safe, that’s not a symptom” so i was just saying ok i shouldn’t be so sure. no need to scold me.

          2. boop the first*

            Yeah, it should make some sense that symptoms are unpredictable, since it’s not viruses that produce symptoms, it’s the immune system. I get mad at cold viruses when I get sick, but really, it’s my own damn body that insists on overreacting by trying to suffocate me to death. Everything feels like everything.

    2. WellRed*

      But once Stacy suspected and got tested, she should have stopped coming to work. She didn’t even wear a mask.

      1. Cheluzal*

        I’m a bit confused because people think she worked for two weeks being positive but I thought she went home the day she tested positive.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          If you are getting tested, for whatever reason, you should assume you’re positive unless you’re told otherwise. Just because she went home when she found out doesn’t mean she should have been at work while she was waiting to hear. Getting tested is such a process that I can’t imagine a bunch of people just lining up for tests unless they have reason to believe they were exposed– and if you’re exposed, you should, you know, stay home.

          1. Willow*

            I guess that depends what state you’re in. I’m in California and anyone can get a free test. In and out in five minutes, results in three days. No symptoms required. I’m getting tested regularly just to be safe (I have high-risk family members).

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Could be, but I’m all I’m saying is that I’m not standing in line in the hot sun (typical in DC, the lines) and getting a swab stuck all the way up my nose unless there’s a good reason (I work from home, no symptoms, I wear a mask when I shop once a week, my partner and I limit interactions with other people, no bars/restaurants, etc.,). I don’t think I’m alone in that!

            2. Paris Geller*

              I had symptoms in early May and the level of hoops I had to jump through was baffling! Call health department to see if I’m eligible. I am. Health department refers me to the national guard. They’re not taking appointments for testing in my city that day. Call back the next day. Appointments in my city are full, told to go to a city over. Tested on a Thursday. I got my results. . . 16 days later, quarantined at home the entire time and unable to go to work. This was in Texas. Granted, I have heard testing has sped up up since then, but yeah, depending on location, it’s not always an easy process.

        2. Baffled by the Callousness*

          If she didn’t suspect she could be positive, why did she get a test? If I thought there was even the SLIGHTEST chance I was infected, and especially if I knew my coworker was vulnerable, I would do everything I could to not expose her. I can’t even imagine being that awful.

          1. EddieSherbert*


            Stacy got tested… because she suspected she had it! Whether or not she got her test results in 5 days or 5 minutes…. she knew she might have COVID19 and was coming into the office right up until the final second anyways.

            1. Kyrielle*

              I wonder if Stacy got tested so she could tell the OP, her manager, and/or someone else that she got tested and it was negative. It sounds like she really thought she didn’t have it, right up until the test told her she did.

              But absolutely, if you are waiting on test results, you shouldn’t be out and about (including work). And if you have just got a positive test result you should *really not* go back into the office to get your things!

          2. blackcat*

            I know folks who are taking *a lot* of precautions but are still getting tested regularly because they have to go out in the world a bit and have some contact with high-risk family members. Where I live, you can get a test just because, and testing capacity significantly outstrips testing utilization.

            1. Anxious cat servant*

              I’m jealous. We have a community testing place but it’s appointment only, only certain days, 7am-9am only. When you make the appointment you have to check off which symptoms you have or say you have had close contact with an infected person. So it’s better than nothing but I’d hoped we’d be closer to your experience by now.

              1. blackcat*

                The hours for my town itself aren’t great. I think they’re Mon-Fri 10am-4pm or something like that. But a whooping 4% of my town was confirmed positive at some point, and a we’ve had a lot of deaths–something like half of all patients in one nursing home died.

                So…. we’re doing better now, but it was very unpleasant to get here.

      2. JerryTerryLarryGary*

        She might not get paid until she tests positive. But not using a mask or hand sanitizer are stark negatives.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have terrible allergies and I’m pretty sure I have not had COVID (this includes long bouts of sneezing every night) but the optics alone make me extra cautious when I’m in public. And from what my friends tell me, they’re the same. We’re all afraid to cough and sneeze in public, mask or no mask! My point is that even if Stacy thought she didn’t have this specific illness, she should have worn a mask and used hand sanitizer frequently. She should have wiped down her stuff. Even if it was allergies, because allergies come with snot and that spreads stuff, and this is not a time when we want to be spreading stuff.

      I get what you’re saying and I’m sure you’re right, but I can’t excuse Stacy if she has to go to the office every day. When we’re out in public, we have to act like everyone is a risk, even ourselves.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Stacy doubted her self-diagnosis of allergies enough to get a Covid test 2 weeks ago. Once she got the test, she should have told her manager and arranged to wfh or take leave or at *least* worn a mask until she got the results.

      1. Cheluzal*

        We have no information on why she got tested. Maybe it was only because 0P kept making comments or the manager asked. Who knows? I believe she thought she had allergies, especially if she had no dry cough or fever and just the mere sniffles

        1. Baffled by the Callousness*

          Because sneezing spreads germs. I had bad allergies this spring. I was 98% sure it was just allergies, but I realized that I could be an asymptomatic COVID carrier and my allergy sneezes could spread it. I washed my hands obsessively while we were still in the office, and when it became clear in March that masks were important, I wore a mask. It’s not that hard, and at this point any ignorance is willful.

          1. Sarah N*

            Totally agree. I have terrible allergies, yet I still manage not to go out in public and sneeze on people! WEAR A MASK PEOPLE.

          2. jenkins*

            Exactly – the sneeze doesn’t have to be caused by COVID in order to spread it. I have hayfever and asthma, so this time of year I sneeze and cough. It’s normal and expected for me (worse luck). But those things would still be happening if I also had COVID, so I don’t assume I can just merrily wander around coughing on everyone.

  17. CatCat*

    I would not trust Stacy’s judgment at all and for that reason, I would not want to work with her. If I NEEDED the job, until I could get a new j0b, I’d go the icy civility route and would definitely be bringing in my own supplies/not sharing supplies with her and asking for a rearrangement of work stations so I wouldn’t have to be so physically close to her.

    No idea if she suspected she had COVID when she got tested (I had a COVID test recently not because I thought I had it, but because it was required before a minor medical procedure), but her careless behavior in not taking COVID seriously, especially after being told straight up she was in close contact all day with someone at high risk, speaks to very poor judgment and basic level of care toward coworkers.

    I’m also side-eyeing the company here if they haven’t required masks and had sanitization signage and supplies with explicit expectation they be used. I mean, if the company wasn’t taking it seriously, why necessarily would Stacy? So is there a bigger problem here than just Stacy?

    1. Cheluzal*

      But if you’ve lived 2030+ years with allergies and you’re experiencing the same symptoms, why would you think something else? There was no mention of fever or dry cough so I am not faulting Stacy for jumping straight to Covid when she was experiencing her probable normal allergic reaction

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Personally, not wanting being patient zero in my inner circle is what drives me to not assume I’m fine. I had a headache Sunday/Monday with no fever, cough, or anything else, but I stayed home until I was recovered from the headache and confirmed no other symptoms were developing. I mean, I was very, very certain I was fine, but I did not want to be the jerk who contaminated the gym (the only place I had planned to go). I definitely wouldn’t want to contaminate my coworkers.

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, that’s situation a lot of us are facing: standard non-contagious summer symptoms can mask more contagious problems, but it doesn’t make sense for us to get COVID tests weekly for symptoms we have every summer. And honestly, I think that’s where the employer comes in by requiring masks and distancing and identifying supportive leave and remote work policies. I wouldn’t be delighted to be sitting 6 feet from a masked Stacey, but I’d be a lot more upset if I were in the OP’s position.

      3. anon here*

        Dude (or dudette or whatever) — if you can work from home with your allergies, just do it this year. Especially if you’re going to bars and restaurants and gyms and hanging out and not masking, although if you’re doing all those stupid things then I understand why you think it’s fine to go to work and sneeze on people.

        It’s a straightforward cost-benefit calculation if you’ve got an office job that you can do from home. Stay home with allergies — worst case, you WFH, best case, you fail to kill an office mate. Go to work and insist you’re fine — best case, you make everyone paranoid with your symptoms, worst case, you kill someone. One of these outcomes is far worse than the others.

        I stayed home in March because I got a headache and a sore throat. Yeah, I totally thought it was allergies — I get migraines that are linked to allergies pretty regularly, and postnasal drip causes sore throats. But I thought, hey, better safe than sorry — a coworker really close to my desk has cystic fibrosis & type 1 diabetes, which are both significant conditions that impact COVID outcomes. Doesn’t bother me to WFH a few days. My boss tried to convince me to come in and I smiled and didn’t. It’s an office job — I’m not a retail worker or a grocery store employee and I have plenty of PTO. Well, damn good thing I decided to stay home just in case. It wasn’t allergies and I ended up coughing for the next 24 days (kept a diary). But my coworker with CF and diabetes didn’t get it from me! so that’s a win and I’ll count it as my March good deed!

        1. anon here*

          And I never had a fever and I didn’t develop the cough until 5 days in (the weekend after I started staying home from work).

      4. Sarah N*

        Why would you think it is something else??? Maybe because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and her coworker who sits near her just told her she’s in a high-risk group and likely to be hospitalized or even die if she catches it? Wouldn’t that be enough for any sane/non-evil person to take a few extra precautions???

      5. CatCat*

        I have chronic allergies and would have been shocked if my COVID test had come back positive because I have just been experiencing for me what are normal allergy issues. I am not faulting Stacy for not jumping straight to COVID and as I note, we have no idea why she actually got the test.

        But I am faulting her for not taking basic precautions (and the company for not enforcing them) like masks and sanitation to reduce infection risk. This is something literally everyone should be doing. That to me is a big problem.

      6. KoiFeeder*

        If I lived over 2000 years (with or without allergies!), I should hope I’d have lived long enough to know that I have to wear the dang mask.

      7. fhqwhgads*

        Her initial reaction, sure, but once she got the test, she needed to self-isolate until she got the results. She should not have been at work the day she got the results, and most places results still take at least a day and in a lot of cases several days. So it’s fair to guess she was at work possibly infecting people for 2-5 days. NOT COOL. Maybe the testers are more lax where they are, but everyone I know whose been tested (in 3 different states so not a massive sample) was explicitly told at the testing appointment to self isolate while awaiting the results. The company screwed up big time but so did she. She shouldn’t have been there after getting the test before receiving the results. She shouldn’t have gone back to get her stuff after she got the results. She should have been wearing a damn mask. This letter is a laundry list of bad decisions on Stacy’s part and the company’s.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      So is there a bigger problem here than just Stacy?

      YES! It’s called OUR GOVERNMENT

  18. Ashley*

    I would make part of my immediate focus not on the transfer but on how do I know that Stacy isn’t still contagious when she returns to work. If she wasn’t willing to get tested earlier and continued to work while waiting test results, what is Stacy’s credibility for have negative test or not actually having any symptoms without medicine to suppress them? (And even if LW sadly gets it her contagious period and Stacy’s could both be different.)
    I think this conversation with management and HR would help lead to transfer discussions in a way that is better than just saying I refuse to work with person X.
    LW please take care of yourself! I hope you have a great network to help support you during your quarantine.

    1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

      Hi, OP here. Thank you, this is a good thing to keep in mind. I will be sure to at least ask that she be confirmed negative before I will work with her again. Management is making me show them a negative test before I return, so I feel it’s fair to make Stacey do the same. I appreciate all the kind words and advice! I’m currently just quarantining at home awaiting my test results.

  19. Elbe*

    When people take the “wearing a mask is a personal choice” stance, I feel like I should just print this out and show it to them. You wear a mask to help OTHER PEOPLE. They wear a mask to help YOU.

    At some point, Stacey had enough symptoms to get a test. Yet, she kept going to work and sitting five feet from a high-risk person while she waiting on the results. Ethically, that’s awful on her part and I don’t blame the LW for wanting nothing to do with her. I hope that the LW can get a transfer, or that Stacey can be moved.

    If I were Stacey’s manager, this would be a huge red flag that she has incredibly poor professional judgement. This will very likely hurt her career and her standing within the company, if the company is at all reasonable.

    1. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

      You wear a mask to help OTHER PEOPLE

      The sad part is that society is increasingly caring less and less about protecting the health and well-being of other people, especially if it causes a minor inconvenience (such as wearing a mask)

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. And it makes me alternately enraged and horribly sad.

        The fact that a certain segment of our society is making up excuses not to protect their neighbors is just horrifying. It’s like we’ve become a nation with huge numbers of sociopaths or wannabe serial killers having outsized influence.

        It’s like it’s a burden to care for others. I can’t comprehend it.

        1. tinyhipsterboy*

          It’s baffling! I hate comparing cultures as a whole, because there are a lot of issues in more-collectivist cultures like South Korea and Japan, but clearly, South Korea is faring a lot better during the pandemic than we are here in the States. Individualism can definitely help some of the issues that collectivist cultures face, but we have plenty of problems of our own… like the absolute disregard for others’ health and safety. The selfishness here in the States that’s being displayed during this pandemic reads to me like a bad parody of how the USA prides itself on freedom and personal expression, not like something that should actually be happening. JFC.

          1. Mameshiba*

            Yep. So many people complaining about “I can’t express myself” which yes, sucks, but also, 98% of the people I’ve seen in Tokyo are wearing masks.

    2. The mask/sanitizing DOESN'T protect YOURSELF...*

      Good thing I checked if anyone else had this comment before just starting my own chain.

      I got to “I knew she wasn’t taking any precautions to protect herself, like masking or sanitizing things” and knew I would be leaving a comment, because it is at this point starting to be dangerous that we keep letting the rumor that masks are for SELF protection spread.

      The company (for being so great as described by the letter writer) needs to seriously reconsider having allowed ANY pair of people to be working 5 feet apart right now (6 feet should be the MINIMUM, because humans don’t really stay perfectly still while working). It should also definitely be mandating that Stacey go through some (remote) trainings to understand why you don’t put high-risk colleagues at risk of something bad enough to legitimately be classified as a pandemic, and I agree folks who act like this need to be considered having giant flashing red flags on their judgement. We need to come up with some kind of professional consequence or something, because apparently ordinary public information campaigns are not an effective way to get the message through.

      Back to one critical point though, we need to find SOME way to combat false information. This example, where some people (correctly) understand that measures are to protect OTHERS but a different set of people (falsely) believe measures are to protect ONESELF, just happens to have more immediate potential to be deadly.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Thank you. I was just going to go with the correct information but you gave additional stuff that was also good.

        (It’s so bizarre to me that people get mad at mask-wearers. I don’t wear a mask because I think that YOU are a threat to me! I wear a mask because *I* might be a threat to YOU.)

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Masking provides a small protection to you, but a HUGE protection for others. Sanitizing and handwashing protects both you and others. Same with distancing – protects you and others.

        It’s one thing if people don’t care about their own health – I’ve known people like that. But it’s another if they refuse to help protect others. The latter is essentially antisocial behavior, with a high level of risk to others. To me it’s like wandering around swinging a sharp sword around randomly without caring who you cut.

      3. Eva Luna*

        I think my state’s guidelines on remote work are very sensible; basically, everyone who can do so should be doing so. That way everyone’s exposure is reduced, including that of the people who do have to go in to work.

    3. D3*

      I get so livid when people say “It’s a personal choice and I have the liberty to make that choice for myself.”
      It is not merely a personal choice. It’s a choice that has consequences that can hurt or kill other people.
      You live in a society. You depend on that society for a lot of things. Take some responsibility to keep that society healthy.
      Or go live way off the grid without roads, electricity, schools, internet, clean water, etc etc etc.
      Humans are interdependent and need to stop acting like matters of public health are merely “personal choice” and they should not have to do things for other people.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I remember quaker school told us all a (non-christian, idr which religion, probably jewish/muslim/indigenous) story/parable thingy about a bunch of people in a boat. One dude takes a saw and cuts a hole in the floor of his cabin. The rest of the people freaked out and asked him what his deal was, and he said that he could do what he wanted with his cabin. The response, and the moral of the story, was that his personal choices ended when he started doing things that would drown the rest of the boat.

        Anyways I want to punch that story into the skulls of people who don’t freaking mask up.

    4. Baffled by the Callousness*

      Masks are PRIMARILY for others, but do confer a small amount of protection to the wearer.

  20. Granger Chase*

    This whole situation raises serious concerns for me about the judgment of both Stacy AND your supervisor. I can’t fault you at all for wanting to transfer, and I think any reasonable HR department would understand.

    I’m so sorry LW. I hope your test results come back negative and that you are able to find a different role suited to your skill set!

  21. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    Yeah, the company *should* be concerned here, because it sounds like they haven’t taken basic precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect their employees. At this point in the pandemic there is nobody that is unaware that distance from other people is key to preventing the spread. OP’s company should have been moving desks, putting up partitions, making sure people aren’t sharing supplies, etc. OP’s manager mishandled this as well, but I’m more likely to give them slack because this is a new situation for everyone, nobody’s tried to manage their team in a pandemic before. Regardless, the company, the manager and Stacey herself have some apologies to make and will have to work to regain the trust of many people in the office.

  22. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Bigger picture issue:
    EVERYONE in that office needs to get tested. They’ve been sharing air space. Who knows how many people have been infected, and then from there how many those people have infected. They’ve got the possibility of a cluster. The health department probably needs to get involved (whether or not they’re effectively doing testing and tracing is a different conversation).

    The company could have avoided this. Now, they may pay the price.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes! Everyone needs to get tested and the office should have been closed immediately for cleaning, which it sounds like hasn’t happened. What is this company that it thinks it’s in a bubble from the rest of society?

      1. Pommette!*

        Additional cleaning? Actually, just start by closing and asking employees to wait two weeks and get tested before returning. Use the time to figure out how to keep employees safe, and six feet apart from each other, at work.

  23. TheAdmin*

    A few weeks ago, I ended up calling the manager of one of my coworkers to inform her that one of her direct reports was still showing up to the office while waiting for the results of his COVID-19 test! Fortunately the manager took it seriously and made it clear to her team that anyone showing ANY symptoms or suspects they’ve been exposed should either work from home, or take sick time/PTO. His test came back negative, but I don’t regret my decision to go to the manager.

    People keep asking me when I’ll return to the office (I’ve been WFH since the end of March), and I just keep responding “Since I can’t control the precautions, or lack thereof, taken by others, I feel better staying home to limit my risk of exposure.”

  24. Reluctant Manager*

    It depends where this office is located, but Stacy should be fired for exposing the company to serious liability–assuming the company made their processes and expectations clear. And if they didn’t, the company should fall all over themselves to keep Stacy away from OP and keep OP on staff to avoid a whistleblower situation. This is appalling.

  25. Dasein9*

    Wow. The most generous interpretation of Stacy’s behavior I can muster is that she really was lying to everyone, including herself. A state of denial can be pretty powerful. I’ve been there, when I really, really didn’t have time to be sick, but for a reasonable person, that denial lasts maybe a few hours, not days or weeks. (Even accounting for the reduction in reasonableness that can accompany illness.)

    A phrase I’ve picked up from AAM might be applicable here: This incident may raise “serious doubts about Stacy’s judgement in general.”

    1. DarthVelma*

      I can think of a more generous interpretation. Stacy genuinely believed it was just allergies. Someone convinced her to get tested, just in case. Or maybe she got tested thinking it would come back negative and that would get people off her back about her allergy symptoms.

      I’m having one of my worst ever allergy seasons and I’m very glad to be working from home so I don’t have to deal with this exact situation. I’m getting the stink eye every time I cough into my mask on the rare occasions I got out in public. My coworkers are lovely people, but we also work in public health so there’s no way I wouldn’t get asked about it constantly.

      All that said, if she got tested because she thought/knew she had been exposed and went to work while awaiting her test results – all bets are off. She’s a horrible person and the OP shouldn’t ever have to interact with her again.

      1. Temperance*

        Okay but like, you can’t just get tested on a whim. You need to show reasons why you deserve one. So IF she was tested, she absolutely, 100%, without question shouldn’t have been in the office while results were pending.

        1. Cheluzal*

          Oh yes there are plenty of drive-through testing sites that don’t require doctors notes anymore.

        2. MissBliss*

          That’s totally location dependent. I needed a doctor’s orders to get tested, but a few weeks later, my husband only needed to go to the pharmacy drive-thru.

        3. Marny*

          This isn’t true in many places in the US. You can get a test on demand in a lot of states without having to justify it.

        4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          “I have this cough and I don’t know if it’s allergies or COVID,” or just “I’ve been coughing for several days” is enough to get tested in a lot of places, now that there are more tests available.

        5. Willow*

          You can get free tests in California without symptoms. I’m getting them every other week.

      2. Cheluzal*

        I agree completely! There’s no mention of dry cough or fever so she probably really thought it was allergies and just got tested to shut people up. I don’t think she intentionally try to infect others and 0P needs to be more angry with the job and Stacy.

        1. anon here*

          Less than 80% of patients presenting in NYC had fever, and less than 80% of patients presenting in NYC had cough. These folks all had confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses. New England Journal of Medicine, “Clinical Characteristics of Covid-19 in New York City”, June 11 2020.

          The whole reason COVID is dangerous is because of the high spread rate from people with few symptoms. I understand you sympathize with Stacy, but I think the attitudes you and Stacy are exhibiting are a big part of why the US is doing so poorly in slowing the spread. The failure in education is astounding and widespread. I’m not entirely blaming you — in my spouse’s hospital, they initially tried having staff only wear masks if patients were coughing (to preserve PPE). After 9 providers got sick in a matter of a week (a significant fraction of the clinic staff) they changed their policy… but then everyone who was left had to do twice the work.

      3. Dasein9*

        Yeah, I get bad allergies too and it can take a minute to figure out if symptoms are for allergies or cold or flu.

        Still, it is possible to be asymptomatic and still spread a virus when one has allergy symptoms instead of covid-19 symptoms. The coughing and sniffling are serious, and Stacy should have been masking because of that. Doesn’t matter, in the end, what the cause turns out to be: the cause may be COVID-19 or a different virus which can cause complications to someone who already has or contracts COVID-19, we all need to mask up and follow cleanliness protocols.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          One year, I had what seemed like really bad allergies, and I was at an event. I worked my booth in a N95 mask, to try to reduce the amount of pollen that I inhaled. It also protected others from the spring cold that I also turned out to have.

          People in many Asian countries wear masks when they are sick, or even generally in flu season. I’m really hoping it takes hold here. It would reduce the office/social spread of cold and flu, too.

      4. Paulina*

        I can see that as being a possibility. However, once her test came back positive, she should not have gone back to her desk, so close to the OP, to get her things. She should have called in to let her supervisor know and made arrangements to get anything that was essential when others weren’t around. That last exposure, she knew she was positive.

      5. Detective Amy Santiago*

        My allergies have been horrendous lately.

        You know what I’ve been doing? Keeping an eye on my temperature to make sure I’m not running a fever, staying home as much as possible, and wearing a mask anytime I have to go out. Just in case.

        It is not that hard to respect other people.

      6. New Jack Karyn*

        She also wasn’t taking basic precautions, and going out to non-essential places. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for Stacey, here.

        1. Dasein9*

          Me either. As I said, that’s the most generous take I could muster. (In case I wasn’t clear, part of Alison’s advice is to consider the most generous possible explanation; it’s that I was responding to.)

          That’s a valuable exercise, though, because if the OP chooses to go to management, bringing in the most generous possible take will help both with credibility and with working out constructive solutions rather than mere recrimination.

      7. pancakes*

        She wasn’t wearing a mask or social distancing, though, and she wasn’t working from home although her work—unlike the letter writer’s— can be done from home.

  26. I Love Llamas*

    First of all, I am so sorry for the OP. What a horrible situation to be put in. It is obvious from the letter that emotions are running high (and rightfully so). Here are my thoughts: not only would I talk to HR, but I would suggest including your supervisor in the meeting so the entire situation is hashed out in front of HR. He needs to be held accountable for the disregard of Stacey’s symptoms. I would suggest not bringing up the “not working with Stacey” issue until it is determined when Stacey is returning. Fight this one issue at a time.

    I would also have a conversation with Stacey when she returns. Explain to her how upset you were and how her actions put you at risk. She needs to understand that this isn’t just about her. Once you hash things out with Stacey, then perhaps you have the information necessary to determine if you can work with her or not. Give yourself some time to recover from the shock you just suffered before addressing a long-term issue of working with her or not. Please provide an update.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      OP already explained her risks to Stacy. If Stacy didn’t care before, why would she care now? OP’s already used her words directly with Stacy and the mgr, it’s time to ask for help from higher authorities.

      1. Cheluzal*

        I think it’s unfair of us to try to understand what Stacy is thinking. But since we are I would assume if she had no fever or cough and was displaying exactly the same thing her body does with allergies that she truly believe that’s all it was. We have to be very careful that we’re not attacking every sniffle and cough, since the majority of things come from other causes.

        1. Nevercomments*

          You keep mentioning a cough and fever. Not everyone who has covid 19 have these two symptoms!

        2. Sarah N*

          Even if Stacy had no symptoms, anyone can be an asymptomatic carrier. Zero excuse to not wear a mask and santitize supplies that are shared with others.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I am going to repeat myself and a few other people here: even if Stacy DID have allergies, she should have worn a freaking mask. Even if she tested negative, she should have at least worn a mask. And once she got tested, she should have– wait for it– worn a mask, even if she was sure she would have tested negative. Her failure to do so, and her failure to take other precautions, and the company’s failure to insist on safety measures, are the problem here, not Stacy’s assumption she had allergies.

          Again, I have allergies. Horrible ones. They mean I sneeze and my eyes get itchy and red. I wear a mask when I’m going to be indoors or when I am going to be around more people than my partner. Because that is an important thing to do for the safety and (gasp!) peace of mind of the people around me.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t disagree, but I’m putting the main blame for that failure above Stacey. To me we’re loading individuals with way too much responsibility to compensate for systemic failures when we should be putting the blame on those systems. To paraphrase Robert Graves, the system is sick; she’s just the rash it broke out in.

            1. Courageous cat*

              Don’t agree on this. We all have personal responsibility based on extremely widely available and well-known information. Stacey is not a victim of a system here. Stacey has responsibility and she failed to live up to that responsibility in a multitude of ways.

              Just because the company is at fault doesn’t mean we absolve people and say “it’s okay, you didn’t know better”. She knew better.

  27. Ann O'Nemity*

    Ugh, I hope the OP doesn’t have COVID-19 due to the reckless actions of Stacey and the utter lack of safety precautions at their workplace. I understand why OP is angry at Stacey, but I think they need to be a lot more angry with their employer for not doing minimal and basic things to protect their employees – distancing employees, setting mask and sanitation rules, etc. I hate to say this, but Stacy may have taken her symptoms more seriously if her employer had set different expectations and policies.

    1. Paulina*

      Yes, I’m floored to hear that this office seems to have been business-as-usual, keeping desks close together and having coworkers still routinely share work supplies.

    2. Koala dreams*

      Yes, that’s the big problem. Requiring employees in high risk categories to work close to others and share supplies is really careless. I understand that some jobs can’t be done from home, but the employer could have taken more steps to keep the most vulnerable employees safe.

  28. Amethystmoon*

    Most companies don’t have people stay home for allergies. I get allergies and asked my boss a few weeks ago what the symptom policy was since allergies are similar, and was told ppl with allergies don’t have to go home. I work for a Fortune 500 company. That said, Stacy should have done the right thing, but she didn’t. Companies are going to have to have teeth enforcing Covid policies or they risk employees spreading it more.

  29. Michelle*

    Short version: My husband (who is diabetic) and his coworkers were exposed to COVID by a infected coworker, who had gotten a test and like Stacy, came to work every day until she received her results. My husband tested positive and was on leave for 3 weeks.

    Longer version: Coworker was on vacation and posting pictures on Facebook. Day 4 of vacation she posted they were returning home due to her husband and daughter not feeling well. She comes to work on Monday, received a call at work on Thurdsay and leaves, company-wide meeting on Friday at noon informing everyone they had been exposed and they are sent home while the workplace was sanitized. Husband developed a cough on Sunday, went to the doctor on Monday, received chest X-ray, doctor says “If I was a betting man, I would bet you have it”. He gets nose swab test and is told to isolate awaiting results and he does. He got his results on Thursday, informed his work and stayed home for 17 days. He had to talk to HR, doctors, public health officials, etc. This was late March. Several other people also tested positive and followed isolation protocol. I think my husband getting tested and treatment ASAP helped him because his case was fairly mild, but the mental toll of isolation was tough. My job shutdown on March 16th and he was tested on March 23rd and got his results on March 26th, so I did not expose any coworkers and worked from home until June 8th.

    I think if you get tested and don’t stay home until you are confirmed or cleared and possibly expose others, you should be fired or at least get a “final warning” write-up or something. The coworker that exposed my husband and others is still on some kind of paid leave, posting pictures of being with her children and other family members the week after testing positive. She hasn’t even pretended to follow isolation/quarantine guidelines. It’s aggravating because my husband and others have returned to work, with occasionally interruptions because another person tested positive, but she is out having a grand time.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      That coworker should be fired for a profound lack of judgement and common sense.

  30. soon to be former fed really*

    Stacy pointed a virtual gun at the OP. No way should she ever work with her again. The company should actually get rid of Stacy, OP shouldn’t have to quit her job because a coworker behaves foolishly and puts her at risk during a pandemic.

    PSA: It is possible to have Covid-19 AND allergies, they are not mutually exclusive.

      1. Temperance*

        Not really. COVID-19 has serious, and often fatal, health consequences for some people. A young, healthy woman in the US actually had to get a double-lung transplant. Some people have developed asthma following COVID-19.

        If someone exposed me to this disease, which they contracted likely by being reckless and irresponsible, I would be done with them. Period. I am still holding a grudge, almost 10 years later, against the person who was about to expose me to bedbugs, which are gross but don’t kill you.

          1. Temperance*

            That’s absolutely heartbreaking. I’ve seen reports of the Kawasaki Disease-like neurological condition impacting some kids, too, so even if it isn’t fatal, it can have serious lifelong impacts. That poor baby.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Dramatic? Hardly.

        Even if you don’t end up on a ventilator, COVID-19 has some pretty nasty follow on impacts. A friend of mine is *still* recovering, *still* has difficulty breathing, *still* gets vertigo, *still* is sun sensitive, etc. This is after over a month since he came down with it. He’s a previously healthy middle-aged guy who has (had?) a very active job.

        People who survive can takes literally months to get back to normal, and some never will.

        Yes, it’s a virtual gun. I’ve had a literal gun pointed at me. I don’t see it as any different.

        1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          Thanks, I have a friend who is out of the hospital and has been at home for weeks but is still in a weakened state. Virtual gun for sure, with tiny tiny bullets.

      3. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        I’m not prone to drama. But Covid-19 is killing and maiming people, and knowingly exposing people is like playing Russian roulette with their health and lives. Come on, stop minimizing this pandemic-causing virus. Besides, the pandemic is nothing but drama. Job losses, people can’t hold funerals or visit their loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, product shortages, with civil unrest on top of it all, untrustworthy government bungling handling of the pandemic. I would say these are pretty dramatic times.

      1. Cinnamon*

        No, it would be firing people who willfully ignored any precautions & quarantine requirements that were set up by the company (although in this case it sounds like they didn’t act until AFTER so the company did not handle this well either).
        If not fired there needs to at the very least be a firm talking about why these precautions are there & a write up for the employee.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          And the company should be fined for not having a policy in place. For all we know, stacey got COVID from a co worker.

          1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

            More likely Stacy got it from one of the bars and restaurants she was hanging out in, they are known to be high-risk places. If the employer is violating workplace safety ruleaa they should be reported and fined accordingly.

            Stacy’s mom, you should just stop.

      2. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        I never said fire Stacy for testing positive or fire everybody that tests positive, that would be silly. She should be fired for her reckless disregard for her coworkers health and life. The company should not have let her in after the positive diagnosis, but the fact that she thought getting her things was important enought to now knowingly come around OP andothers says it all. She just didn’t GAF. Please read carefuly before commenting.

  31. TiffIf*

    In my office, I got a call from my supervisor early on letting me know that someone in our office had tested positive and it was someone I was in contact with within the time they were likely infected/contagious. (This was in early March since we have been working from home since March 12.) I did not get sick and I still don’t know who the individual actually was. This is the way it should have been handled. There is a clear duty to inform those who were in proximity to someone who got sick but you can do it without revealing private information. People may have guessed it was Stacy but all a manager needs to do is inform people that they have been in contact with someone who subsequently tested positive.

      1. Bostonian*

        LOL. Unless the people who were in contact with that person are also out for 14 days on quarantine. :-)

    1. pancakes*

      “Didn’t get sick” meaning you haven’t experienced symptoms or meaning you tested negative? We don’t fully understand this yet but the latest CDC model suggests that 20 to 50% of people carrying the virus are asymptomatic. There’s also a new study out in Annals of Internal Medicine that found “lung abnormalities were present in 54% of asymptomatic people with Covid-19.” Not experiencing symptoms doesn’t mean that you don’t have the virus, and doesn’t mean that your health isn’t compromised in ways we don’t yet fully understand.

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Well said, pancakes. I wondered that too. What do employers require workers to do if exposed to another coworker directly diagnosed or exposed? Information without action is useless.

  32. Grbtw*

    I know this is unpopular, but everyone needs to start suing, big time. Sue Stacey personally and she won’t want to work with you either. Everyone says this is unprecedented, but willfully endangering someones life has happened before, and she can pay your medical expenses.

    1. Cheluzal*

      Sounds to me like Stacy really believe she had allergies so that would be difficult. It would also create a quagmire in our judicial system. OP should take her ire out on her employer.

      Unless you’re going to pay me to work from home with my allergies, I’m coming to work with the sniffles when I have no other symptoms but that which I’ve had forever. Why would I go get tested for Covid otherwise?

      1. Temperance*

        Not really. Stacy was out in the community, going to bars. She was behaving recklessly. Her “belief” doesn’t matter. Folks with HIV who believe that they don’t need to disclose because they’re undetectable are still often prosecuted for their non-disclosure.

        1. JerryTerryLarryGary*

          But our president, the commander-in-chief, is doing his best to minimize all this, and actively model stupid behavior. Her actions were selfish and ill-informed, but you don’t know why she was acting that way.

          1. Temperance*

            I mean, she’s a grown ass adult person who has a professional job of some sort. She should have critical thinking ability, regardless of what that guy is doing. I know that some of his fans are doing things like drinking aquarium cleaner, but I hope that people who are that stupid are in the minority.

            1. Courageous cat*

              Yes! Seriously! Why is everyone like Stacey is just a tiny baby who can only do as well as her leadership above her does??? She made a MULTITUDE of missteps and put LW’s life at risk by being careless (at BEST this is how I’d phrase it). She does not need the blame shifted off her. She’s an adult.

              You can back someone over with your car and be like “oh my parents and driver ed didn’t teach me to look behind me when I put my car in reverse” but, if you literally kill a person because you couldn’t think with your own brain that “I should take precautions while performing this action”, then idk what to tell you.

              She does not need her hand held as much as some commenters are implying she should.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                There is a point where sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          Again, this will not hold up legally if the state was open and those businesses were allowed to be open because the stay at home orders expired. It is not illegal to go to a bar if the state says they are open.

          1. Temperance*

            I was talking about her personal culpability for her bad choices, not her legal exposure for those choices. Stacy is a jerk. Unfortunately her jerkitude is probably not actionable.

        3. 000*

          …which is a profoundly homophobic policy, like many of the policies around HIV that actively discourage testing.

      2. Grbtw*

        By getting tested, she knew it was a possibility and was told ahead of time that OP was at risk. I agree about this being mostly the employers fault for not allowing work from home, but what about the at-risk individual who will loose everything and worst case, die or be on the hook for a lung transplant?

        I have allergies, but I wear a mask and clean my hands often, I’m not afraid of being sued because I know I’m not putting anyone at risk, but you better believe, if I get sick, I’m going scorched earth because I’m surrounded by co-workers who don’t care and don’t respect my boundaries. Luckily, my state puts the burden of proof on the employer, so the evidence I have that I’ve only been at work and home are just icing. I know my perspective is outside the bounds of normal reactions, but I’m so angry and I can’t believe the level of indifference to harm I’m seeing, all because managers don’t trust their employees.

        If we all start suing over this, then they have to reevaluate their bottom line, we’ve grown passive and this is workplace abuse.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        If you can’t stay home, wear a mask. Even if you think it’s allergies. If you’re going to be in a public space, especially indoors, wear a mask. It’s not 100% foolproof, but it certainly shows a level of care. Just do it. Stacy should have done that and maybe the anxiety and fear would have been mitigated.

    2. Temperance*

      I’m not sure that this is even possible. It depends on whether COVID-19 is viewed like herpes or HIV vs. something like norovirus. Non-disclosure of HIV is criminalized in many jurisdictions, whereas things like the flu or norovirus are not.

      1. goducks*

        And HIV non-disclosure laws aren’t rooted in public health concerns, but in bigotry and homophobia.

        1. Grbtw*

          Yeah, you are definitely correct on that one. I do agree with holding people responsible legally, but only because I consider consent to be a human right all across the board, not just with illness. I really do have a problem with the meaning behind this law though, it obviously has nothing to do with consent as they don’t apply this standard to anything else and it’s obviously directed at minorities and LGBTQ people. So yeah, scorched earth me doesn’t even respect this law.

        2. 000*


          not sure that bringing up HIV laws, many of which actively encourage NOT knowing your status and are specifically around the idea that gay men, trans women, and drug users are inherently dirty or evil, is a very good idea

  33. Juniantara*

    OP, it is possible that this becomes an OSHA issue, especially if anyone in management knew that Stacy had taken a test and was awaiting results. If you do get a positive test result, it may also be worth checking out the workers compensation rules in your state. This isn’t consistent or settled yet everywhere, but your office is supposed to provide you with a safe working environment and a lot of the missing precautions fall under that umbrella. Office workers don’t always think about OSHA (or whatever your workplace health and safety rules are) but the laws apply to them too

  34. dealing with dragons*

    OK, so. This probably depends on what state or country you are in, but in my state if a doctor so much as hints you might be covid+ you are treated as such and supposed to self-isolate for 14 days. I am pregnant, which makes it super easy to get a test. Like I was having extra fatigue and a headache and they offered to test me (I declined with my OB’s blessing – we both knew it was work related lol). However, a few weeks prior I did get tested as I was having coughing and shortness of breath (probably asthma related). I got a whole paper telling me that I am presumed positive until the test comes back and to isolate. Even with just the headache they told me off a script to self isolate.

    All of this is to say, someone had to have told Stacy to self isolate. At this point I don’t know what liability there is (covid times are weird times) but knowingly infecting people with other diseases (namely HIV) is illegal. Your HR should be all over this.

    1. Sarah N*

      I do think it is worth at least looking into legal options against Stacey personally and potentially the company if the OP tests positive. No idea what the legal status is but I don’t think OP should just let it go — at least look into it.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        Good luck proving you got it from Stacey. She may have gotten it from a co worker. Sue the company for not having proper policies and protocols may work.

  35. anony*

    Denial is a strong force. Shame is too.

    I actually find myself sympathizing with *both* OP and Stacy in this situation.

    If OP and their other coworkers test negative, all’s well that ends well. And if not, pretty sure Stacy’s punishing herself plenty, and will have learned her lesson. I agree with everyone above pushing for the company to change their policies and whatnot, but in the current national climate, I read this as Stacy having been well-intentioned and caught by surprise, and urge compassion along with boundaries.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Nah. No compassion for people who won’t take basic precautions like wearing a mask.

    2. Temperance*

      Where do you see that she was “well-intentioned”? She kept exposing herself to the disease by going to bars etc., and didn’t wear a mask at work. She then HAD A TEST and didn’t bother to tell OP or anyone at work until she got her positive result.

      Literally everything that she did was reckless. Everything.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        And after getting the positive test, returned to the office–without a mask–to pack up her gear, not telling OP about the positive test. Holy cow.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          Why would I tell a co worker my medical issues? Especially if I just found out the result?

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I mean, if I’ve been unknowingly wearing an asbestos jacket into work, I think I’m obligated to say “hey, you’ll probably hear this from the bossman, but I just found out that my jacket was actually asbestos” to anyone who might have been exposed.

          2. Temperance*

            A lot of people here keep using neutral terms like “medical issues” and “medical conditions”, as if they’re something that only impacts the infected person. This is a global pandemic. Anyone who is participating in the spread of this is culpable.

          3. Fancy Owl*

            I don’t understand why people are confused about this. Contagious diseases are different. If you find out you have cancer, no, you are not obligated to tell anyone because nobody will catch cancer from you. But if you find out you have coronavirus, the flu, an STD, etc, you have a moral obligation to tell people you might have infected. And if you are waiting for test results you have an obligation to limit the damage. If you don’t make an effort to do so, you are a selfish shitty person. Just like Stacy.

          4. Courageous cat*

            Because… you sit next to them… and you have a highly contagious disease… during a pandemic. Did I fall into a rift in the space-time continuum sometime earlier today?

          5. Keymaster of Gozer*

            If you’ve put them at risk of a lethal infectious agent then you should absolutely let them know about that risk.

    3. Manana*

      If she were masking and wiping things down (which any worker with even just the sniffles should be doing because there are many illnesses you could be spreading) I would agree. But this person just didn’t seem to agree with the concept of germs or contagion at all. I’m not saying she should be burned at the stake, but it is 100% on all of us to do our best to keep our communities safe. If a year ago this has happened and she had the flu, sure, it’s a bit careless. But with everything happening, even if you don’t think Covid is a big deal, to literally do nothing when you have snot streaming out of your face is intentional selfishness.

    4. Sarah N*

      When you intentionally choose to endanger others (AFTER OP had let Stacey know she was in a high-risk group!!!!!), why would there be any sympathy for you??? I don’t give a shit if Stacey “learned a lesson” if the cost of that is someone else becoming ill or even dying. Even “mild” cases are showing long-term lung damage and damage to other organs in some cases. I have ZERO sympathy for people who can’t manage even the very most basic level of care for other people in the world.

  36. memyselfandi*

    Having been exposed to COVID-19 three times, twice through work and once through my landlord and having been tested twice, I can say that it can be extremely disconcerting when that happens, but you will regain your equilibrium. In fact, getting test results can be reassuring and can help you realize that the risk of infection is rather low in many circumstances. Also, it can be helpful to focus on your own behavior and ability to reduce your risk of infection, rather than the behavior of others. You can wash your hands frequently, wear your mask, clean your workstation multiple times during the day and maintain distance. I work in a department of health and these are all part of our guidance for those working in the office. Stacy was under no obligation to inform you of her health status, although I will agree that she behaved irresponsibly. If you were exposed you will be contacted by the contact tracing team in your state and be informed by that means. Take a few days and reassess your feelings.

    1. Temperance*

      Um, no to all of this. 100% no. I just … wow.

      You absolutely cannot “focus on your own behavior” when the virus is spread by careless people, like Stacy, breathing near you. Washing your hands does jack shit when Typhoid Stacy is next to you. I find it alarming that you say that you work in public health and are actively spreading misinformation.

      Masking doesn’t protect *you*. It protects other people *from you*. That’s why there’s a certain group of douchebags in this country who won’t wear them.

      1. memyselfandi*

        Well, I was responding to the emotional side of the experience. Yes, it is an emotional experience to be exposed, and the current crisis is impacting people psychologically. However, we are facing many months during which the risk of exposure is high, and it is important to find ways to make ourselves feel safe and gain a realistic perspective of risk. One way is to be clear on what you can do to protect yourself. Risk of exposure and risk of infection are two different things. The risk of exposure is high, but one can reduce one’s risk of infection by following the guidelines, rather than fretting over the behavior of others. Hand washing is a long-established method of reducing infection with viruses that cause respiratory illness. You discount the positive social message of wearing a mask. We all have a part to play and we can all contribute by taking an informed and reasoned approach to public health. Much of what I read here sounds more like fear than reason.

        1. Washing my hands till the end of time*

          +100 to all of this. I think I was posting at the same time you were.

        2. Fancy Owl*

          No, no, no. Washing hands and wearing your own mask to set a “positive social message” were not going to help the OP here. She was sitting close to a person who was contagious for weeks! You’re right that it’s not necessarily a death sentence for the OP, but it’s totally reasonable for her to be afraid of what this means for her until she knows whether she has it or not. The OP is not making a mountain out of a molehill here.

      2. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Masking also protects the wearer. That’s why filtration levels are important for health care workers, and the rest of us too. Think about it, if a mask keeps infectious particles in, won’t it keep infectious particles out also? Societies where everybody wears masks have controlled transmission of the virus.

    2. Washing my hands till the end of time*

      Yes to all of this, though I’m not relying a whole lot on contact tracing.

      Focusing on what I can control–my behavior, protocols in my home, workplace policy to the extent I have influence on it, pressure on local government, the choice what establishments I patronize–and spending less energy on futile wishes that I could police others is key. It takes practice and I’m not always perfect at it, but it helps me sleep better at night and channel my physical and mental energy into things more productive for my family and the community, whereas my anxiety spiral and rage at irresponsible people help no one and nothing.

      1. Fancy Owl*

        I’m sorry, but like with the original comment in this thread I don’t think this is helpful to the OP. The OP isn’t worried about coronavirus in general, she was in a specific situation that was basically the ideal condition for her to be given coronavirus. If you translated your advice and memyselfandI’s advice to AIDS, it would be like telling someone who is angry because their partner didn’t tell them they had AIDS and didn’t use condoms, “Don’t worry! AIDS is rare and treatable and you can protect yourself from it with condoms. Don’t give in to fear and anxiety!” That’s not what this person is worried about, they’re already in a position to have AIDS/coronavirus!

  37. MissDisplaced*

    Woo Boy! I’m sorry this has happened to you OP. But sadly, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of the same as states open back up and people go back to the office.
    It really sucks that America’s response to COVID is failing all of us at all levels.

  38. goducks*

    I don’t want to minimize what Stacy did, but did the employer create an environment where Stacy felt she had no choice but to come to work unless she had a positive test? The response to the team when Stacy tested positive seems really lacking. They told employees so they could “make informed decisions about their health” and are having the office cleaned. That’s… not enough. They should be sending everyone one in close contact for testing! The OP classifies them as generous and good that they’re allowing her to stay home until her test comes back, and giving her two weeks if she’s positive, and to me, that seems like the barest of minimum that they could do.
    Is this a workplace where Stacy was afraid that if she told TPTB that she was getting tested that she would fear that they’d take a negative action against her? Or make her take unpaid leave when she can’t afford to?
    There’s been a lot of threads on this blog about workplace sick culture in the US and how employers make it hard for people to take sick time, and I’m wondering if that is partially at play here. Not that it makes it ok for Stacy to do what she did, but maybe the workplace was such that she didn’t feel like she had a lot of good options.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah. I mean Stacy does sort of suck. But the employer seems to suck worse. Why can’t OP be working from home in the first place?
      And you can’t really blame Stacy for going to restaurants and bars if those places were now allowed to be open for business in your state and city. Our very governments are thus saying it’s ok to do so. It’s a failure on so many levels.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think this is particularly painful example of the way bad systems pit the less powerful against one another rather than against the system itself.

      2. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        I can sure blame Stacey. One cannot be a sheep during the pandemic, economic forces are overcoming public health considerations with many of these government decisions. One must be educated on modes and methods of transmission and make informed judgements about how much to get out there. Just essential stuff for me for he forseeable future. Restaurants and bars , indoors, are know high-risk situations. I just wish people would think.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Stacy made a dangerous decision and that’s bad but I agree, she was only acting out of self preservation in the end. As a person who presumably needs an income, she had little choices to make.

      But their response to pay the OP when they are on self quarantine waiting for results makes me wonder why they didn’t make this policy widely known and avoided Stacy’s issue all together.

      I’ve made it abundantly clear that if you have symptoms, you can’t work and you must get tested. She wouldn’t get to write these off as allergies in the first place, you have to go prove it once you start to cough. That’s paid time off while getting the test. But so many cheapskate companies are being hush hush because they’re worried about people “abusing” it and getting paid to stay home. who cares really. This is a frigging pandemic. I’d rather people “abuse” the system and get paid than lose a single one of my crew or anyone else to this damn virus.

      1. goducks*

        100%. We are now months into this pandemic, there’s really no excuse for the OP’s employer not to have made a don’t come in with symptoms, we’ll pay you to stay home policy widely known. They’re going to keep having this situation, where the Stacy’s of their organization are going to act in self-preservation mode.

        For me, the fact that they didn’t send everyone exposed home for self-quarantine is really telling about their attitudes around this.

      2. pancakes*

        Not wearing a mask when she sits 5’ away from coworkers and shares supplies with them is a big choice she made. The letter also says she wasn’t sanitizing things. How is that self-preservation?

        Coming in to work although her own job, unlike the letter writer’s, can be done from home is another big choice she made.

        Continuing to come in to work while awaiting test results is yet another big choice she made that needlessly and senselessly increased risk for everyone with the misfortune to work with her.

    3. Stacey's Victim- OP*

      Hi, OP here. The company utilizes WFH for Stacey’s role (I can’t WFH because my role is very different from hers and requires me to physically be in the office) and has allowed Stacey to use it in the past when dealing with personal issues. They also have a special emergency paid sick leave that she could have taken that was designed for exactly situations like this. I would have understood more if the circumstances were different and she wasn’t able to take any time, but there were multiple avenues available to her and she chose to ignore them. I’m also realizing here that the company enabled her to do what she did and is far from blameless and I’ll be addressing that with them in time. Thanks!

  39. Heidi*

    Sorry that this happened to you, OP. This really stinks. I don’t have any additional thoughts about actions you can take. If this is still very recent, however, I would hold off on approaching HR until you’re reasonably certain that Stacy isn’t going to die. Asking for transfers and filing complaints against her are going to be a moot point if that happens and might even come across as insensitive if she doesn’t make it.

  40. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

    This letter is the worst nightmare scenario with my mom (over 65) and her job atm. She’s an essential worker (bank related) and her management, along with some co-workers, think COVID isn’t a big deal. Thankfully, due to IL laws, they have to wear masks and social distance inside the building but the social distancing came to an end a week ago. They are 100% against WFH – I’ve sent her the articles on how to push back but she doesn’t want to rock the boat – so, yeah.

    I don’t have any helpful information, save for wear your masks and wash your hands, but hope that the OP doesn’t get sick. Also joining the chorus about wanting an update.

  41. Manana*

    So your coworker sucks and were it not COVID, you can be assured that she would have also spread the flu, strep, pink eye, and any other illness she catches because your work set up sounds like a petri dish. And while I’ll reiterate that your coworker sucks, this is ultimately a failure on your employer. I would approach this from a “what are you going to do to make sure I’m safe” standpoint, not in a “Stacy sucks, fix it” standpoint (though she absolutely sucks).
    Stay safe but don’t let your idiot coworker derail your professional trajectory. Stay professional, put the responsibility on your employer, and perfect your icy-yet-work-appropriate tone for when Stacy returns.

    1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

      Hi, OP here. I appreciate all the people who pointed out that our employer also has blame in this. I wasn’t really seeing the big picture before, but, while Stacey acted terribly, our employer enabled her to do so and didn’t do enough to protect me and I’ll be addressing that with them in time. I will do my best to be professional and try not to act emotionally.

  42. notacompetition*

    OK, wow. There should be no “risk that you’ll look difficult or overly high-maintenance or like you’re overreacting” for asking for a transfer after your coworker knowingly exposed you to a potentially deadly virus, especially after disclosing to her and to your supervisor that you are at higher risk of infection. This is a huge liability for the company, it’s why the federal government passed extended sick leave (Families First Coronavirus Response Act), and it’s an intense lapse of judgement by your supervisor. We now live in a world where temperature checks, hand washing, masks, and STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK are in the social contract (I don’t know where you are located but here on the East Coast we’ve been taking this pretty seriously). The onus should not be on you not to appear difficult. This is a corporate mess and they need to adjust their policies, or start following their already adopted policies.

  43. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Holy…they can’t just tell you that she specifically has Covid19 though, this supervisor is risking so much. That’s a fireable offense. You have to say you were exposed to someone with it but can’t name names.

    Also it’s mandatory around here to put everyone on paid time off until they can come back with a negative test result.

    There’s so much wrong with this setup. But that’s not your problem, go to HR and have them do their jobs to make this better for you! And don’t protect anyone, be truthful and honest about your issues and this incredibly awful thing that’s happened to you. I’m hoping you are cleared and that you are healthy after all this stress!

  44. Anon-mama*

    I am so sorry and hope you are well and continue to be so. I do not have much advice for how to deal with Stacy or your manager, but here are some ideas for them to consider moving forward. Our work (a municipal department that cannot work from home) has only communicated how leave will work once we test positive or someone in our home does. So my coworkers and I were discussing what makes sense for mitigating exposure risk. Here’s what I, armchair epidemiologist had concluded after listening to our governor’s press briefings (a state with one of the lowest transmission rates): 1. Mgmt enforces mask wearing CORRECTLY (it has to go over your nose) and physical distancing, as well as putting up dividers between workspaces and sanitizing of high touch surdaces–maybe also providing each employee with hand sanitizer and a cleaning solution and paper towels. 2. Mgmt makes it clear there is paid sick leave for symptoms, and if it gets bad enough, daycare rules might apply. Fever *and* cough go immediately home and do not return unless given a doctor’s note or negative test. I am 3. Mgmt has the number of a testing site with the fastest result turnaround and no appointment/a doctor who is liberal with testing scripts. Here in CT there are two 15-minute sites, and the longest appears to be the self-serve at CVSes throughout the state. They encourage employees exhibiting multiple symptoms multiple days to get tested there and to isolate until given a negative result. 4. Once someone tests positive, department of health should be informing work and contact tracers nearly all employees in the floor to get tested (you would hope exposure to a known positive would be enough to get a test). If you don’t feel they are good about this, maybe make it a policy that work must be informed of the positive v result. The identity will be withheld, but co-workers at risk *must* be informed of exposure, not necessarily from whom. 5. The building is closed for professional cleaning. Everyone quarantining/isolating gets paid and does not loose their PTO/sick balance. 6. Infected people do not return until the doctor clears it, which is I have heard is two negative tests 24 hours apart and three days symptom free. Yeah, it’s hard and expensive to employers. But rapidly isolating positives and quarantining their contacts is the only way this gets better.

  45. Georgina Fredrika*

    ““Stacy” was very clearly showing symptoms and lying to everyone about it for the past two weeks, claiming that she had really bad allergies.”

    I could be totally off base here, but I’m wondering if OP had an ongoing dislike/issue with this co-worker?

    I understand that the topic is a really heavy one, but the repeated insistence that she was “lying” doesn’t seem accurate. It’s entirely reasonable to assume that, as an adult, she knows what seasonal allergies feel like, and that’s what it felt like. You don’t even know for sure that it was COVID symptoms that you witnessed – she could have had seasonal allergies (which makes sense, because it’s that season! it would actually be odd if she didn’t have them!), been asymptomatic, and got tested just in case.

    This isn’t to excuse what she did – coming BACK into the office before leaving was bananas, etc – but if your goal is to decide what to do/if you can stand being around her, it seems really unlikely that this confluence of events will ever happen again now that people know she’s done it before.

    1. Stacy's Mom*

      LW does have an ongoing issue with Stacy. They say they have “numerous other reasons” for not wanting to work with her, which they don’t share. Stacy is a BEC in the age of coronavirus.

      1. Stacey's Victim- OP*

        Hi, OP here. I don’t have any personal beef with Stacey, I just hate sharing an office with her because I find her incredibly annoying. She is constantly taking long personal calls and talking to everyone around her about her personal life. She also has a nasty habit of eating constantly and is very messy about it. She also frequently misplaces our important office supplies so I can never find anything. None of that is at all relevant to the main discussion, though. Her work quality is good and she meets deadlines and I don’t have to pick up her slack and, until now, that’s all I really cared about. I didn’t have any personal issues with Stacy until she intentionally exposed me to a deadly highly contagious virus that I’m especially vulnerable to.

    2. anony*


      Also, I could be wrong, but I think it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that people can be asymptomatic and pass it on, and that sneezing is a major way to spread the virus. So even if *OP* believed that the sneezes were allergy-driven, they were still a risk for a high-risk person to be around. And nowhere does OP say they asked to be moved away from the situation *before* Stacy tested positive — they were BOTH operating for two weeks as though Stacy was negative.

      The situation sucks all around.

      1. Georgina Fredrika*

        oh, that’s true – didn’t even think about how having allergies could make you spread the virus more.

    3. Stacey's Victim- OP*

      Hi, OP here. I don’t have any personal beef with Stacey and we work fairly well together, but she is annoying to have to sit next to. It has absolutely nothing to do with the current situation, she’s just an incredibly annoying office-mate. She makes a lot of loud personal calls and is constantly talking to anyone who will listen about her personal life, which is how I know she’s been continuing to go to bars, restaurants, and large social gatherings. She also snacks constantly throughout the day on only the loudest and crunchiest possible foods and gets crumbs EVERYWHERE. I mostly just tune her out by playing the radio at a low volume or listening to my own music with headphones. I didn’t have any personal issues with her until she exposed me to a deadly and highly contagious virus that I’m especially vulnerable to.

  46. Luna*

    I am in no way defending Stacy’s actions. Going into work with symptoms of this virus is horrible, and I am grateful that Germany was, and still is, very strict on handling this thing; if you have these symptoms, you are told to not come into work and to stay home until you get your test results. In fact, intentionally doing things that could infect other people is a legal offense right now, and it will have severe consequences for them.

    But I just want to say that Stacy may not have actually suspected that she had the corona virus. Given what the LW writes, especially with Stacy not taking the virus situation seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t going to get tested, but someone in her family or friend circle heard of her symptoms and insisted that she get tested.

    I do hope that your test comes back negative, and that you will be able to get a transfer or otherwise not be forced into working closely with Stacy anymore. I do not blame your feelings or that you may not be able to keep things professional, if you do work with her again. What she did was a disgusting move.

    1. Nicki Name*

      Yes, I’m thinking the same thing, that she got the test to prove she wasn’t infected– and was shocked when it came back positive.

      That doesn’t excuse her carelessness, though, or the “numerous other reasons” the OP isn’t comfortable working with her. Those other reasons would be worth documenting, to show that Stacy’s attitude about covid-19 is part of a larger problem, even assuming that she truly didn’t think she had it.

  47. Knitting Cat Lady*

    What happens if a company doesn’t take Covid seriously?

    A German meat processing company called Tönies has 1400 cases of Covid in their slaughterhouse, every single employee, including the CEO, is in quarantine, the municipality the plant is in, and the municipality next to it, have gone back to lock down, and this looks to be the kick off for Germany’s second wave.

    And the CEO and owner of the company, Germany’s richest man, will likely have to face liability out of his personal fortune.

  48. Madeleine Matilda*

    So much to think about in this letter. 1) Your office really needs to step up its safety procedures – masks at all times, no sharing supplies, moving desks at least 6 feet apart, hand washing, sanitizing, etc., 2) You company should be requiring anyone who has a COVID-19 test to immediately quarantine until they receive the results and then if positive to continue , 3) the company was right not to share Stacy’s name as she has a right to her privacy, but the company has a responsibility to inform anyone Stacy had contact with that they were potentially exposed. Most company’s likely aren’t set up for contact tracing, but need to begin thinking about how to do that. 4) Stacy was cavalier, but OP seems to be assuming Stacy had COVID for at least two weeks which she may or may not. She may have had allergies as she originally assumed and then contracted COVID. HR should be talking to Stacy to gather information on when she was exposed so they can inform staff who had contact with Stacy on when they may have been exposed. I think OP can try to transfer, but being so new to your company, you also need to plan to continue work with Stacy. What changes would you need to be able to do that? Who can make those changes happen? How would changes such as requiring masks be enforced? Hopefully this has taught Stacy that COVID is real and serious and when she returns to work she will be much more cautious.

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      Since people can, in some place, get the test just to see if they were exposed, they are not obligated to tell the company they had a test done. Many people are doing this for curiosity’s sake.

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Or, because they are having a procedure like a nasal endoscopy and the doctor is requiring a test before doing it.

  49. Stacy's Mom*

    Naming sick employees might feel like a great, proactive thing to do in the short term (instead of, say, not having people work in desk clusters or encouraging/mandating liberal use of sick leave in the first place), but this manager is discouraging the next Stacy in the office (and there will be more) from getting tested. Bad manager. Just say, “You have been exposed,” and let people put 2+2 together.

    Anyway, how likely is it that an employer that sounds pretty careless about covid (again…desk clusters? seriously?) will take LW’s request to be transferred to another department because they’re mad at their coworker, especially since LW’s a new employee?

  50. AnonoDoc*

    I’m a doc, and I have allergies.

    First, fever tends to be a late symptom of COVID, not early, and up to 40% of people who even have SEVERE COVID never develop a fever.

    Second, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic spread are real. So even if she had only her usual allergy symptoms, it was extra important for her to be wearing a mask as sneezes send particles for long distances.

    Third, the company is completely negligent having people working too close together, without barriers and not requiring masks.

    OP can handle the talk with HR without mentioning she heard the name of the infected co-worker by mentioning her concerns about someone with allergy symptoms working near her, not wearing a mask and then leaving suddenly just before OP was informed she had been exposed.

    And of course, I very much agree with all the other posts about how negligent this person was not quarantining after she was tested.

  51. Veryanon*

    I don’t really understand anyone who persists in not taking COVID-19 seriously. That’s not to say that people should live their lives in fear, but common sense precautions are not difficult.
    My employer (an essential business) has handled this pretty well. While we had as many people as possible work from home, we still have people whose jobs can’t be done remotely. It’s been our policy since the beginning that anyone who feels sick or is experiencing any symptoms should stay home, and we will pay them for that time. It took a few tries to get people to understand that when the company said “stay home if you are sick and we will pay you,” the company actually meant it.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Let’s talk about “fear”.

      Fear is a rational response to danger. It is perfectly rational to fear contracting a deadly disease that has known asymptomatic community spread!!!

      Do I “live my life in fear”? Well, yes. I limit my potential exposure, I wear a mask when out to protect others, I do all the precautions I reasonably can to protect myself and my at-risk roomies.

      Am I paralyzed by fear? No.

      But I don’t claim not to be afraid. Because I am a rational person, and ending up in ICU on a ventilator scares the crap out of me.

      IMO, it’s a mistake to dunk on fear. It’s a rational thing in this case, and it should drive reasonable precautions.

  52. Rebecca*

    I’m on Team OP here. I work with people like this, one of whom came into the office in early March with cold symptoms masked by OTC meds, because she felt guilty about not getting her work done. This was in direct violation of HR’s directive of even if you think you have a cold, STAY HOME. Her office mate found out 2 days later. Luckily, it was “just a cold”. Now we’re all back in the office, people aren’t following distancing, no one is wearing a mask (except me), and I feel like I’m sitting in a hot lab with no bio suit. People are going out and about, not wearing masks at the store, because “they’re over it”. I’m very angry on the OP’s behalf, especially since she told this person that she had health issues that put her at risk for COVID-19. I wouldn’t want to work with her, either!

    1. D3*

      Just because they are “over it” does not mean it’s over.
      Not by a long shot.
      My ILs are the same way, and they’re both super high risk and we are worried because they’ve both declined enough that they can’t live alone. (One can’t drive and has memory issues. The other can’t cook and has mobility issues. So far they can manage together but neither one would be okay alone!)

  53. Colorado*

    OP – I’d be raging mad too! Your company should have better measures in place. Stacey should have never come back to work until she received her test results. And certainly not after testing positive(!!!!). I mean it speaks volumes of someone who tested positive would actually walk back into their workplace. Who does that?!? And everyone in that office should have been sent home immediately and tested. The office sanitized. So many fails all the way around.

    I hope your results are negative and I can understand never wanting to work with her again, or seeing her face. Best of luck and please give us an update.

  54. HailRobonia*

    Our office has traditionally had a lot of temps for certain seasons. These temps did not have PTO, so would often come to work while sick with colds and insist that it’s “just allergies.” The result: colds spread like wildfire in our office.

  55. Charlotte*

    Allergies don’t have a fever. COVID does. I have allergies and asthma. I take my temp every morning both to have a baseline (most people don’t have a normal temp of 98.6) and also so if I do become ill, I know before I’m carrying it (whatever it is!) to other people.

    1. Dahlia*

      MANY people who have covid-19 never develop a fever. You could also very well be asymptomatic and have it.

  56. blink14*

    This reminds me so much of a former co-worker who would come in sick, when they had been explicitly told that due to both my boss and myself having chronic health conditions that they needed to stay home when ill. We have an extensive amount of sick time, and staff are highly encouraged to stay home when ill.

    Why my former co-worker didn’t do this? I don’t know, but it was really frustrating. I’m so glad they took another job before the virus hit, there’s no way I would’ve trusted their word.

    1. Fancy Owl*

      Yes, I have a coworker like this. In his case, I think it’s because he’s super dedicated to the job and very conflict avoidant so I think he doesn’t quite believe us when we say, “No, really, please stay home. I won’t resent you. I’ll actually resent you more when you come in”. It makes me wonder if he resents me when I stay home because “I’m not dedicated enough”.

  57. Archaeopteryx*

    If Stacy does try to make nice to you when she comes back, don’t feel like you have to brush it off or except a minor or weasely half- apology. She needs to hear that she knowingly endangered your life and that that was not OK to do.

  58. A Non E. Mouse*

    Ok I’m definitely team Not Stacey. Wanted to start out with that.

    BUT: I live in a state/metro area in which is is very hard to get a test (have to have known exposure or be in a high-risk group), even if you qualify for a test it could be a day or two out, and even if you GET tested, it’s taking 3 to 5 business days to get the results. A member of my household had to get tested, and this was literally the path we took – our own family doctor had to refer us to the county for a drive through test (that was only conducted during business hours, so if you work a job with no time off? No idea…), and then we waited three full days for results.

    So – and I’m not making any excuses – it could be that without a known source of infection, she literally could not get a test before she did.

    That said your company should take this seriously and space out desks, increase cleaning protocols, encourage WFH, etc.

    That said! She should have taken precautions, particularly at work – mask up, asking for more spacing or to work from hom,

    1. blaise zamboni*

      That’s almost worse, though, isn’t it? If she had to wait to get a test and tests are only allowed for high-risk individuals, then she was obviously concerned enough about her symptoms to seek out a test. She should have contacted her employer at that point, expressed her concern and that she was waiting to be tested, and asked for guidance from there. Ideally they would have allowed her to quarantine.

      Even if they didn’t, I would feel much less betrayed by a close coworker who said, “Hey, I’m concerned that I might have Covid, I asked for leave and it wasn’t granted, I’m going to distance from you and urge you to take precautions around me as well.” She didn’t do…ANY of that. She insisted to her close, high-risk coworker AND her boss that she was totally fine, no issues, no sirree. If she got test results on Thursday, she likely did the test on Monday. She should NOT have been at work in that interim. She definitely should not have been at work and flagrantly taking zero precautions for the safety of others.

      I understand the desire to show her compassion, and I suspect she’s not an evil monster who intended to get OP sick or whatever — but, I think, she is at best a very selfish person who didn’t consider the people around her even after they asked her, repeatedly, to do so. How Stacy handled this is not the right way to handle it. If I were in OP’s shoes, I would also feel fearful, angry, and like my trust in this person was irrevocably shattered. Even if Stacy had all the best intentions in the world, I think OP is right to feel that way, because they know they’ve been exposed unnecessarily. It’s an incredibly crappy position for OP to be in.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, I agree that would be worse. The problem with trust begins the moment she thinks it might be possible that she has the disease and chooses to continue working from the office without saying anything to anyone. OP has indicated she could have worked from home without issue. The longer the time between her first considering it as a possibility and her receiving positive results, the more egregious her behavior.

  59. Brett*

    Why would OP’s supervisor, who has no supervisory role at all with Stacy, know that Stacy tested positive when apparently Stacy came back from lunch in tears (when she presumably got the news personally from her testing agency) talked to no one, and left the building?

    And management’s impetus to inform everyone that they were exposed and clean the office was OP telling everyone that someone tested positive, based on the word of OP’s supervisor who probably should not have access to that information in the first place? (Especially considering that Stacy apparently told no one why she was leaving, but management was announcing the office cleaning the same day.)

    OP, are you absolutely certain that Stacy tested positive for COVID-19 based on the word of your supervisor? Or is there a possibility that something else is going on and your management is just showing further bad management on top of their original mishandling?

    1. fposte*

      It does look like it’s a shared supervisor–the OP says “our supervisor” at one point. My guess is that by “told no one” the OP really means Stacy said nothing to the OP or other co-workers, but did inform the supervisor (and therefore didn’t just walk off the job midday).

      1. Brett*

        Ah, I misread a different part of the letter and thought they did not share an immediate supervisor.

        I still think OP needs to provide some reasonable doubt to Stacy here and not just assume that Stacy tested positive and has had COVID-19 for two weeks. It seems like management is driven by strange incentives here and could be susceptible to just letting Stacy carry as much blame as possible.

  60. nnn*

    It sounds like you sit close to Stacy because you have to work closely together.

    If this is the case, are there other roles in your company that you could do that don’t require working closely with another specific individual, and therefore sitting close to someone else?

    If yes, you might be able to ask about moving to a work-alone role on the grounds that you’re higher-risk for COVID, and COVID is nowhere near under control.

    There are a lot of variables in this approach that you can see and I can’t (are there even work-alone roles? Are there some cultural connotations about work-alone roles that would make it inappropriate for you to ask for them? Would this request just result in you working remotely but still being teamed up with Stacy?).

    But if a work-alone role is an option, that might be a way to get you away from Stacy without having to say “I don’t want to work with Stacy”, and to protect your health at the same time.

    Another option might be to express interest in a role that isn’t working with Stacy solely based on the characteristics of that role. It could be “I’m super interested in llama auditing!” or “Given that I’m high-risk, I’d be interested in something that can be done remotely” or any other positive thing you can say about the desired role.

    Whether you’d be able to move based solely on interest when you’re a newish employee is uncertain, but it’s a possible approach.

    (Also, depending on personalities, you could ask your manager about moving to another role in a way that doesn’t mention Stacy, and then, if rejected, say “To be perfectly candid, I was hoping not to have to work with Stacy after she exposed me to COVID-19”. Sometimes, with some people, you can “get away with” things that might not be perfectly polite if you go through the motions of trying to be polite first and then “confide” in the person about your real motives. But, as ever, read the room.)

  61. Koala dreams*

    I can understand that you are angry at your co-worker, but the big problem is that your employer require the most vulnerable employees to work close to other people who doesn’t wear masks and share equipment. Even if you never see Stacey in the future, you might find yourself in a similar situation again, especially as some people get very few symptoms from covid. If part of the job can be done from home, maybe you can suggest to your manager that duties are re-assigned so that you do the things that can be done from home, and someone else (who isn’t in a high risk group for covid) does the things that needs office presence. Some offices have employees take turns going into the office, that way you can spread out more which is a little better. If WFH isn’t an option, you need to ask for better precautions in the office. Are there any other co-workers that seem sensible? Maybe you can go together as a group and ask for better precautions.

  62. Jennifer Juniper*

    Stacy needs to be fired. She knowingly exposed the OP and could be responsible for killing people over time.

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      How can she knowingly expose OP when she believed it was her allergies? For what we know, she believed she had allergies, took a test, and was stunned to find out she was positive.

      1. Dahlia*

        If you’re taking a covid test, you need to assume you’re positive, and act accordingly. She also refused to wear a mask even though she could be asymptomatic. Allergy sneezes don’t magically not spread germs.

  63. Black Horse Dancing*

    I’m a little curious, OP, what are your supervisors doing asking you things and spreading peoples’ medical information around? You did this as well. COVID 19 is terrible, You are at risk. Your co worker has allergies and shrugged off the idea she may have COVID 19.
    First–your company is the main one at fault here. They have WFH when someone has personal struggles but didn’t have an automatic WFH/paid leave policy in place. They didn’t have a COVID policy from what you’re stating. That should have been done.
    2nd–WTH was your supervisor? Why didn’t she step up and why is she telling you confidential information? Why in the world didn’t they send Stacey home with pay when she started sneezing and require a COVID test?
    3rd–Stacey probably should have mentioned to her supervisor she had the test. She probably believed she had allergies. Is reporting the test required at your company? I do know people who have gotten the test because they were curious, not because they thought they had COVID. But given the loose lips in your office, I can see why Stacey didn’t tell anyone. Again, if she just did this because she was curious–the public health office is offering tests, why not get one?, I can see why she didn’t think she was positive.
    Anyone in your office could have COVID or had COVID and had no symptoms. You have no idea who has had it or not.
    I absolutely understand why you are furious. You should be angry at your company more than anyone. They failed you, Stacey, and everyone else.

    1. M2*

      This is what’s wrong with our country. All these other countries have tons of testing and contact tracing! You should know when you are in contact with someone with Covid and everyone at that office would assume it was Stacey because she is now not there.

      People need to take personal responsibility for themselves and others during a pandemic. It is in Stacy not the company if other coworkers get covid. She’s an adult and needs to act like one. She got a test so she clearly thought she had it and continued to go to work anyway without notifying anyone. That is selfish and part of the reason in the US why this keeps spreading. No one is taking personal responsibility.

      I watched a doctor the other day who said other countries are doing better because they have a social conscience and the US is “individualistic” I thought that basically summed it up (pasts the incompetence of the federal government right now). My best friend in Sweden would have stayed home. Granted they get better paid leave but it’s something they have been taught since birth to stay home even with a cold to protect others. Ugh! This is driving me nuts. Stay the heck at home people if you exhibit symptoms! It is all over the place on signs and commercials so just do it.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        Many people get tests for curosity or just because, not because they think they have it! I’ve had HIV tests and gess what, I never thought I had it! I did it because I was curious. My county has COVID tests for anyone. I don’t think I have it but I may get one for curiosity’s sake. A young woman I know got tested just because she was curious. (and because it was free.)

      2. Remote HealthWorker*

        I agree that she should have told OP she was being tested.

        However it’s really dingenerous to blame the indiviuals for the poor outcomes of a systemic issue. To blame American individuals for the systemic failure of the pandemic that is caused by lack of national leadership and a greed first lives second corporate culture is simply false.

        I work at a hospital. I’ve always had the attitude that coming in sick is rude

        I would call out or ask to WFH whenever I was ill. You know where that got me? In the doghouse. Our PTO is paltry and sick leave can’t be used until you have used at least 3 vacation days in a row for the illness so everyone comes to work sick.

        My department is also serving Covid19 patients and some staff, mainly leadership staff, are not wearing masks. I let my skip level boss know. You know where it got me? In the dog house. Official reprimand in my file, HR, the works.

        So yeah, it’d be great if everyone were compliant but a system that lets a non compliant majority get away with the behavior is mainly at fault in my book.

    2. JMB*

      That’s what I was thinking. The company I work for made us all sign an agreement that we would not come to work if we had symptoms.

      A positive test is reported to HR. HR notifies anyone who had close contact with them to self isolate, and not return to work until they test negative. An email is sent to the rest of the company that there was a COVID19 positive employee, and the department identified

      The fact that LW’s company had no policy in place, and the fact that they are confirming (or, they aren’t denying) who has COVID19 is a violation of privacy laws

  64. GoingAnonforThis*

    I thought best practice was to act as though you are positive when you get a test, and to isolate at home until you have better information (quarantine? isolate?). I would hope that those who have serious reason to believe that they have contracted the virus would, at the very least, work from home until they know more. I would also hope that company policies would make clear that this should be the case so people do not come in while waiting for a result that may be positive and in the meantime, expose coworkers, people they encounter on public transportation, at the grocery store, etc. I know we are all figuring this out as we go along but this seems like the basics in both good public health and human kindness. It sometimes feels like both are in short supply lately.

    1. Temperance*

      That IS current best practices. She also should have notified her company that she had symptoms and was getting a test.

  65. Greggles*

    How do you know she didn’t test and get negative the first time? I know 2 people this happened to. They have allergies, literally said hey it’s a bad year, but I’m going to get tested. Clean but started feeling worse.

    Then they got tested a few days later and they were positive.

    I’m in a state that you can just get a test. So people are getting them
    A couple times some time.

  66. jen*

    Couldn’t she approach it from the standpoint of an ADA accommodation? She has an underlying health condition and needs certain precautions to minimize risk of exposure – such as having a work desk 6 feet away from people? Also I would think of policy changes like needing a doctor’s note to be cleared to return to work if you show certain symptoms that are consistent with covid. This is why I’m hesitant about companies opening up and not having adequate policies/procedures in place to minimize risk to those who are at higher risk. By not having adequate policies they are not protecting workers as they should.

  67. Mimmy*

    OP – If you are comfortable with it, please update and let us know how things turn out. Wishing you good health.

  68. I'm just here for the cats*

    I feel for this letter writer! I would be livid about this. What if the LW gets COVID and has an adverse reaction. For many people it can change your life. Lung transplants, heart issues, blood pressure issues.
    Heck I was livid because a co worker of my mom’s went to a high risk area and said she doesn’t care because she doesn’t get sick! Luckily they went to work from home shortly after that.

  69. M2*

    Stacy should be fired. Our office has given everyone an extra 15 Paid days to use just for coronavirus. Either if you get it or you need to help a family member etc. they also told us if you exhibit symptoms you are not to come in and can work at home if you don’t want to take those days off. If you need to get a test our insurance covers it. If she were in our office She would be fired. She out at everyone’s health at risk. She’s selfish. LW If you get a test and It comes back negative get one again in a 5 days. Good luck.

  70. JMB*

    At my company, one of our directors tested positive for COVID19. HR sent an email stating they have notified all employees who work in close proximity.

    I expressed that the department where COVID was identified, *every member* of their team comes in and out of my office, daily. What I was told was “yeah but you didn’t work within 6 feet of them for 15 minutes or more.”

    Today, we had another positive case. I predict that by the end of the month we will have covid positive case number 3.

    All the while, my GM has been walking around talking about “oh, only .4% of people died! I’m not afraid of this virus!” “I’m not afraid of a virus, I am ssoooOooOo healthy” Meanwhile, he was exposed to the person with COVID. He was supposed to stay home until he received a positive test. He got the test, but kept working until HR told him that people are noticing his presence. That and then fact that most of his own workers are on furlough, so maybe don’t gallivant about how this virus is no big deal.

    1. JMB*

      Meant to say that my GM was supposed to stay home until he got a negative test. He was instructed to take a test, and not return to work until he had a negative result – but didn’t follow the order. He showed up to work the next day, and wore a mask. The mask he has neglected to wear for the last 3 months. Only when HR saw he was still at work did they demand he leave

  71. 911 where's the emergency*

    I had four coworkers test positive mid April. Only one week before were we provided masks as an option. Only after positive test results came in was every dispatcher tested and required to wear a mask. Then we waited 4-5 days for our results and continued to work while we waited. Then I had someone I work closely with on my shift test positive. They weren’t going to retest us at all even though my entire shift was exposed between the test and his diagnosis!
    Two weeks later they emailed us saying they were having us tested for antibodies and retesting. I imagine it was only after people complained.
    For the record this is in one of the top three states with cases of corona.
    I’m not at all surprised this is becoming such a huge workplace issue.

  72. Sally*

    This exact thing happened to me in May and to make it worse, I tested positive and passed it on to someone living with me. We have recovered fully but imagine my shock when I returned to work this week and the first thing the colleague says to me is ”I don’t think you got it from me”. This person had all the symptoms including coming to work with a fever (!!); the manager knew it and did nothing. In my eyes, the company is more at fault because employees shouldn’t have to depend on the personal responsibility of others during a pandemic. The HR at my company is a joke and I can’t wait to get out of this place.

  73. Musereader*

    I have allergies, and have had a mucousy cough on and off since December, and continued to go into work until 18 May, here you can get a test whenever you want, but I was not feeling well that weekend and had no fever but had blocked nose and reduced sense of taste, I got a test despite not thinking I had Covid.

    But unlike Stacey, I informed my employer and they had me stay off until I got the result, I got a negative result by Wednesday and went into work and told my manager and had a coughing fit while I was there. Manager told me to go home, get a dr appointment and find out what was wrong, Dr agreed it was allergies and prescribed nasal steroid spray. Despite having a warning for being over the limit on sick days my Manager had it signed off with their manager that there was no repercussions for being off sick even after the negative test.

    Basically I believe that Stacey may have thought she didn’t have it despite getting a test, I got a test without truly believing that I had it, at least partly because I had collegues who kept suggesting I should get tested for weeks over what I knew was not a covid cough. But she absolutely should have taken the days off when she got tested despite that, and management should have made her if she had said anything, or at least had that policy that employees should be off if waiting for results, and communicated that clearly.

  74. EvilQueenRegina*

    Back in March, a coworker “Cordelia” had come in one day at the beginning of the week saying she didn’t feel too good, but didn’t think it was Covid because “she didn’t have a cough”. Another coworker “Buffy” was concerned enough to take her temperature and said “You have a fever. Go home.” Cordelia did go, and by the end of the week Buffy had a message from her saying she had pretty much taken to her bed the whole week.

    Cordelia wasn’t tested at the time because in the UK at that point testing was rubbish and they were only really testing hospital patients although this has since increased and if this happened today she would be able to get one. Nothing was officially communicated around the office, most likely because she never actually had a positive test. Boris locked us down the following week anyway so people were barely going into the office (the building stayed open but mainly for people who genuinely couldn’t WFH. I don’t think she was in the office long, certainly a lot shorter time than this Stacy, but if Buffy hadn’t acted as quickly we could have had a lot more infected people. (Since this was so close to the time Boris locked us down, if there were others infected from that part of the office, there’s every chance most of us wouldn’t know though, since at that time they would have been unlikely to get a test and wouldn’t be a known positive case for the office to communicate to us about.)

  75. Wren*

    I agree that Stacy was cavalier with your health, and the health of all her contacts, and that yes, people should be isolating between testing and getting test results. My mental framing is that if you are concerned enough to get tested, you should be acting like you have it. But to a person like Stacy, who, if you are correct about her not having taken any precautions, going to restaurants and bars, etc, perhaps she was in the mindset that she was getting tested so that she could back up her assertion that her symptoms were just allergies with a negative test result. She was so deeply in denial that she really thought she didn’t have it. Clearly her risk assessment is very poor. Such people are infuriating and a danger to others. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

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