Consistent with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (guidance accessible HERE), on December 30, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new recommendations for quarantine/isolation after an individual tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to a COVID-19-positive individual. The new guidance also addresses booster shots for the first time. A link to the CDPH December 30, 2021 Order can be found HERE.
California employers continue to be bound by the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for COVID-19 Prevention, and Cal/OSHA has not yet updated its website to reflect the updated CDPH recommendations for shorter quarantine and isolation periods for those who undergo COVID-19 testing. However, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order on December 14, 2020 that allows the shorter quarantine/isolation periods recommended by the CDPH or a local health officer to supersede longer exclusion periods in the Cal/OSHA ETS. Cal/OSHA has cited to this same Executive Order in the past when approving shorter quarantine periods recommended by CDPH for asymptomatic workers who undergo testing in the K-12 school setting, so we expect that Cal/OSHA will similarly approve CDPH’s updated quarantine and isolation protocols.
For individuals testing positive for COVID-19, the CDPH now recommends a five-day quarantine period. However, the quarantine period can end after day five only if symptoms are not present, or are resolving and if a diagnostic specimen collected on day five or later tests negative for COVID-19. An antigen test is recommended.
If the COVID-19 positive individual does not re-test after day five, the quarantine period can end after day 10 if symptoms are no longer present or are resolving.
For those individuals whose symptoms are not resolving, a longer quarantine period is warranted. If fever persists, isolation should continue until the fever resolves. If other symptoms are not resolving, isolation should continue until the other symptoms are resolving or until after day 10.
Even under the shorter quarantine period, COVID-19-positive individuals must wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings.
These requirements should be applied to those with active COVID-19 symptoms as well.
The CDPH also issued new guidelines for people who have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive case, and divides those groups into (1) unvaccinated people and fully vaccinated people eligible for but without a booster shot; and (2) boosted individuals and fully vaccinated people who are not yet eligible for a booster shot.
As a reminder, “close contact” for exposure purposes means that an individual has been within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within the COVID-19 case’s contagious period. This definition applies regardless of the use of face coverings.
Unvaccinated individuals and vaccinated people eligible for but WITHOUT a booster shot must:
If symptoms develop during quarantine, the person exposed to COVID-19 must stay home and test again.
If the person eventually tests positive for COVID-19, that person must follow the isolation guidelines for those testing positive for COVID-19 (see above).
Boosted individuals and fully vaccinated people not yet eligible for a booster must:
If symptoms develop, the person exposed to COVID-19 must stay home and test again.
If the person eventually tests positive for COVID-19, that person must follow the isolation guidelines for those testing positive for COVID-19 (above).
The CDPH has also published an appendix showing when an individual is eligible for a booster shot, as well as the type of booster shot recommended based on that person’s primary vaccination series. The CDPH booster appendix can be found HERE.
Notably, employees who are fully vaccinated but who have not yet received a booster shot despite being eligible to do so are considered the same as unvaccinated employees for the purposes of the updated CDPH quarantine/isolation rules after COVID-19 exposure. For this reason, employers will now need to begin tracking the status of their employees’ eligibility for and receipt of booster shots when necessary to establish an appropriate quarantine period.
Although the Cal/OSHA ETS have not yet been revised to reflect the updated CDPH guidance, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order on December 14, 2020 that allows for shorter quarantine recommendations issued by the CDPH or a local health officer with authority over the workplace to supersede the exclusion period in the Cal/OSHA ETS. The Executive Order (N-84-20) can be found HERE.
The Executive Order effectively allows employers to follow the shorter isolation/quarantine rules recommended by the CDPH or local health officers. However, although the Cal/OSHA ETS do not require testing to return employees to work, the CDPH recommendation requires testing on day five or later and this additional requirement must be followed under the CDPH's standards.
In addition, the Cal/OSHA ETS and the updated CDPH recommendations differ significantly on the issue of booster shots. Distinctions between boosted and unboosted individuals do not exist in the current ETS (or the revised ETS currently set to take effect on January 14, 2022). For that reason, the updated CDPH guidelines are more strict and will now require employers to track whether employees are eligible for and/or have received booster shots when determining the exclusion period for employees that have been exposed to COVID-19.
The ETS will need further revisions to resolve the conflict between boosted versus unboosted employees, as well to address the CDPH’s requirement that asymptomatic employees be tested on day five or later in order to cut short the quarantine/isolation periods. For now, however, Governor Newsom’s Executive Order appears to allow employers to follow the shorter quarantine/isolation periods in the CDPH, assuming that the testing and other quarantine/isolation requirements are also followed.
It is important to note that employers must also check any local health orders issued at the local level in relevant areas, as those orders could be more restrictive than the CDPH updated isolation/quarantine recommendations. Governor Newsom’s December 14, 2020 Executive Order allows the longer of either the CDPH or local health authority quarantine and isolation periods to supersede the Cal/OSHA ETS. This means that if a local health order requires a longer quarantine/isolation period than the CDPH order, the more protective local health order must be followed.
On December 31, 2021, the County of Los Angeles issued updated Isolation and Quarantine Orders that incorporate testing requirements similar to the updated CDPH Order. The County of Los Angeles updated Isolation Order for COVID-19-positive individuals can be found HERE. The County of Los Angeles updated Quarantine Order for those individuals who have been in close contact with a COVID-19-positive case can be found HERE.
It is likely that other local jurisdictions will issue their own updated isolation and/or quarantine orders. Checking these local health orders before finalizing an employee's quarantine requirements is an important additional step that employers must take when determining the appropriate quarantine/isolation periods after an employee’s exposure to or positive test result for COVID-19.
For further information regarding COVID-19 questions or other employment law issues, contact the attorneys at LightGabler.