California Adopts CDC’s New COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Rules for Employers, Extends Mask Mandate

Epstein Becker & Green
Contact

Epstein Becker & Green

On January 6, 2022, the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA) announced that it would follow the revised guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for quarantine and isolation (“exclusion periods”) following a positive COVID-19 test or “Close Contact”[1] with a confirmed COVID-19 case. The new rules—reducing most exclusion periods to five days—are reflected in revised Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) relating to the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for the prevention of COVID-19. We previously wrote about the revised Cal/OSHA ETS, which takes effect on January 14, 2022, here.[2]

Cal/OSHA’s announcement cleared up an ambiguity as to whether these shorter CDC exclusion periods, which had been adopted by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on December 27, 2021, in its Guidance for Local Health Jurisdictions on Isolation and Quarantine of the General Public (“CDPH Guidance”), applied to California workplaces.

These new rules replace the exclusion periods set forth in the current Cal/OSHA ETS, effective immediately.[3] They track the CDC and CDPH guidelines, with exceptions as noted below.

Employers should also be aware that the revised Cal/OSHA ETS, which takes effect on January 14, 2022, defines “COVID-19 test” to exclude a test that is both self-administered and self-read. That means an at-home rapid test kit cannot be used to shorten an employee’s isolation or quarantine period from five to 10 days unless observed by the employer or an authorized telehealth proctor.

Positive COVID-19 Test

According to the revised FAQs, employees who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection:

  1. Must be excluded from the workplace for at least five days.
  2. May return to work after five days* of isolation if ALL of the following are true:
    1. The employee is asymptomatic or symptoms are resolving.
    2. Any fever has resolved (i.e., it has been at least 24 hours of no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications).
    3. The employee tests negative using a diagnostic specimen collected on or after Day 5 (an antigen test is recommended).
  3. Must wear a face covering around others for a minimum of 10 total days.

If an employee is unable or chooses not to test, the employee may return to work after 10 days* if the employee is asymptomatic (or symptoms are resolving) and any fever has resolved.

*It is not clear in the FAQs or CDPH Guidance whether the five- and 10-day periods will always run from the positive test result even if an individual develops symptoms later, but we think it most likely that periods were intended to be interpreted consistently with the CDC Guidance on Quarantine and Isolation, pursuant to which Day 0 is either the date of onset of symptoms or, for an asymptomatic individual, the date of specimen collection for the positive COVID-19 test.

Close Contact: Unvaccinated

Unvaccinated individuals who have had Close Contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case:

  1. Must be excluded from the workplace for at least five days.
  2. May return to work after five days of quarantine/isolation from the date of the last Close Contact if ALL of the following are true:
    1. The employee is asymptomatic or symptoms are resolving.
    2. Any fever has resolved (i.e., it has been at least 24 hours of no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications).
    3. The employee tests negative using a diagnostic specimen collected on or after Day 5.
  3. Must wear a face covering around others for a minimum total of 10 days.

If an employee is unable or chooses not to test, the employee may return to work after 10 days if the employee is asymptomatic (or symptoms are resolving) and any fever has resolved.

Close Contact: Fully Vaccinated but Booster Eligible and Not Yet Boosted

The rules for fully vaccinated employees who are booster eligible but have not yet received a booster and who have had Close Contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case are different for employees at work than they are for private individuals out in public.

In the workplace, vaccinated employees in this category who are booster eligible but have not received a booster, and have had Close Contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case:

  1. Do not need to quarantine if all of the following are true:
    1. The employee does not develop symptoms.
    2. The employee tests negative using a diagnostic specimen collected between days 3-5 after the Close Contact.
    3. The employee wears a face covering around others for a minimum total of 10 days.
  2. May return to the workplace after at least 10 days of quarantine/isolation if both the following are true:
    1. The employee is asymptomatic or symptoms are resolving.
    2. Any fever has resolved (i.e., it has been at least 24 hours of no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications).

Outside of the workplace, CDPH Guidance recommends that incompletely vaccinated persons quarantine for at least five days even if they remain asymptomatic and obtain a negative test result.

Close Contact: Completely Vaccinated (Boosted or Vaccinated and Not Yet Booster Eligible)

Boosted employees and vaccinated employees who are not eligible to receive the booster and who have had Close Contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case:

  1. Do not need to quarantine if all of the following are true:
    1. They do not develop symptoms.
    2. They test negative using a diagnostic specimen collected on Day 5 after the Close Contact.
    3. They wear face coverings around others for a minimum total of 10 days.

California Department of Public Health Extends Face Covering Mandate

On January 5, 2022, the CDPH revised its Guidance for the Use of Face Masks to extend the universal indoor masking requirement through February 15, 2022.  

What California Employers Should Do Now

  • Become familiar with the new rules, particularly the testing required for vaccinated employees to avoid quarantine following close contact. This was not previously required.
  • Remain aware that local health departments may issue stricter requirements, such as longer exclusion periods, which would then need to be followed.
  • Update policies and protocols, keeping in mind that these new rules set a floor for COVID-19 safety. You may choose to adopt or maintain longer exclusion periods.

ENDNOTES

[1]Close Contact” continues to be defined in the Cal/OSHA ETS as being within six feet of a COVID-19 case (someone has tested positive for, or been diagnosed with, COVID-19) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the high-risk exposure period.

The “high-risk exposure period” means the following time period:

(A) For COVID-19 cases who develop COVID-19 symptoms, from two days before they first develop symptoms until all of the following are true: it has been 10 days since symptoms first appeared; 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications; and symptoms have improved.

(B) For COVID-19 cases who never develop COVID-19 symptoms, from two days before until 10 days after the specimen for their first positive test for COVID-19 was collected.

[2] Please note that there will be changes to the draft version of the Cal/OSHA ETS linked in our previous article based on the new rules discussed in this Insight.

[3] Technically, the quarantine-avoiding testing requirements for vaccinated employees who have had Close Contact with a COVID-19 case (discussed in this Insight) do not go into effect until January 14, 2022, but it is recommended that employers begin to comply with this CDC/CDPH recommendation immediately. The reason for the delay in the effective date of this provision is that Governor Gavin Newsom’s December 2020 Executive Order N-84-20 only created an automatic adoption of shorter quarantine and isolation periods issued by the CDPH. The revised FAQs reflect that the new ETS, which goes into effect on January 14, 2022, will include these testing requirements.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Epstein Becker & Green | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Epstein Becker & Green
Contact
more
less

Epstein Becker & Green on:

Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
- hide
- hide

This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.