On March 13, 2023, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued an updated order regarding current COVID-19 standards (see LightGabler's legal update on the CDPH order here). In response, Cal/OSHA updated its own FAQs on the COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations (“NER”). The revised FAQs explain how the CDPH order updates will interact with the related portions of the NER, and can be viewed here (scroll to the bottom to find footnotes listing the changes by date and links to the relevant sections).
Among other topics, the updated NER FAQs contain information about the March 13 CDPH order on isolation and required masking standards. Employers should take note of the following:
The NER FAQs state explicitly that Cal/OSHA will follow the CDPH’s current isolation standards, “The COVID-19 Prevention regulations’ required exclusion periods for employees with COVID-19 are the same as CDPH’s recommended isolation periods for positive COVID-19 cases.” Thus, the isolation standard under both CDPH orders and the NER is, “Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 should continue to isolate for 5 days, but may leave isolation after 5 days, if they are feeling well, symptoms are improving and are fever-free for 24 hours.” As we noted previously, there is no longer a negative test requirement to return to work.
The masking standards between the CDPH and the NER are not in alignment. The CDPH order states that with “two sequential negative tests at least one day apart,” returning COVID-19 cases can remove their masks sooner than 10 days. By contrast, the NER and the FAQs state, “Employees must wear face coverings around others for a total of 10 days.” This means that employers covered by the NER must follow the NER’s stricter standard, which trumps the less restrictive CDPH standard.
In summary, positive COVID-19 cases can leave isolation after five days, if they are feeling well, their symptoms are improving and they are fever-free for 24 hours. No negative test is required to return to work. However, for these returning workers, employers must “Provide and ensure use of face coverings … until 10 days have passed since the date that COVID-19 symptoms began or, if the person did not have COVID-19 symptoms, from the date of their first positive COVID-19 test, or after a close contact.”
For questions regarding COVID-19 requirements or assistance with other employment law issues, contact the attorneys at LightGabler.