[Update: On January 6, 2022, Cal/OSHA issued updated FAQs on new isolation and quarantine requirements for California employers. The update can be read here.]
On December 30, 2021, California Public Health Department (CPDH) issued revised guidance on COVID-19 isolation and quarantine procedures. The revised guidance adopts some of the revised CDC recommendations issued on December 27, 2021, but still requires additional mitigation measures.
However, the CPDH notes in the updated guidance that employers are still required to follow Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) (or in some workplaces, the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard). As of today, January 3, 2022, Cal/OSHA has not updated or changed its isolation and quarantine standards set forth in the ETS.
As a reminder, Cal/OSHA adopted revised ETS for California employers that will take effect on January 14, 2022. This new ETS sets forth the following quarantine and isolation requirements for California employers:
The revised ETS requires fully vaccinated employees who have a close contact to be excluded unless they (1) do not develop symptoms, (2) wear a face covering and maintain six feet of distance from others for 14 days following the close contact. The requirement that they must wear a face covering is a new requirement that was not included in the prior ETS.
Likewise, employees who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection in the prior 90 days and do not have symptoms, can return to work after a close contact as long as they wear a face covering and maintain six feet of distance from others for 14 days following the close contact.
Not Fully Vaccinated
Employees who have not been vaccinated, may return to work after a close contact if they do not develop symptoms, and 14 days have passed since the last known close contact. However, if ten days have passed since the last known contact and the person wears a face covering and maintains six feet of distance from other for 14 days following the last close contact they may return to work. They may also return to work if seven days have passed since the last known close contact and they test negative for COVID-19 with a specimen taken at least five days after the last known close contact, and the person wears a face covering and maintains six feet of distance from others at the workplace for 14 days following the last known close contact.
What are employers to do if the ETS provide more relaxed rules than the updated CDPH isolation and quarantine requirements?
There is no clear answer on how employers are to approach differences that permit employees to return to work under less stringent requirements under the ETS than under the revised CDPH requirements. For example, the revised CDPH provides that individuals exposed to COVID-19 who have received their vaccination and booster shot (or are vaccinated but not yet eligible for the booster) do not need to quarantine if they do not have symptoms, must receive a test on day 5, and must wear a mask around others for 10 days. However, as set forth above, the Cal/OSHA ETS effective on January 14 requires that employees who are exposed to COVID-19 and who have been fully vaccinated are not required to be excluded from work, and there is no requirement for the employee to receive a booster shot. Are employers now required to track and document employee’s boosted status? Are employers follow the more lenient requirements under the Cal/OSHA ETS if there is a conflict between the two? Given these differences in the CDPH and Cal/OSHA guidance, Cal/OSHA will need to issue guidance to employers on the standard that is expected in the workplace.