In December, the CDC issued new guidelines that generally shorten quarantine periods due to findings that spread of Covid-19 is more prevalent early after infection when symptoms are most prevalent. However, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued it’s own set of guidelines for California employers which are more restrictive than the CDC’s current recommendations. A summary of the CDPH guidelines that employers should be aware of is as follows:
1. Fully Vaccinated employees who are exposed to COVID-19 (that is those who have received a booster if six months have passed) are not required to isolate if they are asymptomatic, but must:
- Test on day 5 after exposure
- Wear a mask for 10 days
2. Unvaccinated employees who are exposed to COVID-19 (or those who have two shots but not yet been boosted) must:
- Quarantine for five days after close contact
- Test on day 5 – and if they test negative and have no symptoms, then they can return to work but must wear a mask through day 10
- If they refuse to test, or cannot be tested, the employee must remain quarantined for 10 days, and can then return if they have no symptoms.
3. For confirmed cases (those with positive tests), their treatment is similar to the unvaccinated exposures. Confirmed cases must:
- Isolate for five days, and should perform a test on day 5.
- With a negative test and no symptoms, they can end isolation at Day 5.
- If they’re unable to test or choose not to test – even they have no symptoms – isolation must last for 10 days.
- If fever or other symptoms are present, isolation continues.
Per Executive Order N-84-20 signed in December 2020, the exclusion periods under Cal/OSHA’s Workplace Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) are replaced by “any applicable quarantine or isolation period recommended by CDPH” if CDPH’s recommendations were shorter than the timeframe outlined in the ETS. For example, the current version of the ETS which was approved by Cal/OSHA at the December Standards Board meeting, provides for “a minimum 10-day exclusion of positive COVID-19 cases, regardless of symptoms” which is longer than CDPH’s 5-day minimum for asymptomatic cases.
We expect Cal/OSHA to soon issue a statement making it clear how they will comply with the Executive Order, but employers can expect this shortened quarantine period to take effect in the near future.