New COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Periods For Employers:

New COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Periods For Employers:

Cal/OSHA Aligns With CDPH Guidance on Isolation and Quarantines 

By Kristina Kourasis, Esq.

On December 16, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board adopted another version of the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (the “ETS”), revising various parts of the ETS, including quarantine and isolation periods, and return to work requirements for COVID-19 cases and close contacts. A separate article will be published on the additional key updates to the ETS.

On December 30, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued new guidance for Isolation and Quarantine for the General Public. The guidance contains shorter periods for quarantine and isolation that conform to the CDC periods and that are in conflict with the Cal/OSHA ETS requirements for quarantine and isolation.

The key inconsistency between the sources of guidance was that under the Cal/OSHA ETS, employees who test positive and/or who have had a close contact with a COVID-19 case are required to quarantine for 10 days. Under the revised CDPH guidance such individuals may end quarantine or isolation after 5 days. Adding to the confusion was the reference within the CDPH guidance that states “employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS)…”

The CDPH guidance also states “This guidance does NOT apply to healthcare personnel in any setting.” Please see the linked All Facilities Letter (AFL) -21-08.6 that contains Guidance on Quarantine for Health Care Personnel (HCP) Exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and Return to Work for HCP with COVID-19.

To resolve the confusion, Cal/OSHA has published a “fact sheet” entitled “COVID-19 ETS What Employers Need to Know About the December 16 Standards.” In this sheet, Cal/OSHA states: “The period of time before an employee can return to work after “close contact” or COVID-19 illness has been revised to be consistent with current CDPH guidelines. These time frames will automatically update if CDPH updates their guidelines pursuant to the Governor’s executive order.”

Moreover, the DIR published an FAQ that makes clear that the June 17, 2021 ETS remains in effect until January 14, 2022. However, employers are encouraged to review and begin the process of implementing the CDPH recommendations before the January 14, 2022 ETS takes effect; and that the CDPH recommendations will replace exclusion periods and return to work criteria for all workers when the second readoption of the ETS takes effect on January 14, 2022.

The quarantine and isolation periods that employers should follow under CDPH guidance are as follows:

Table 1: Exclusion Requirements for Employees Who Test Positive for COVID-19 (Isolation)

Requirements apply to all employees, regardless of vaccination status, previous infection, or lack of symptoms.

  • Employees who test positive for COVID-19 must be excluded from the workplace for at least 5 days.
  • Isolation can end and employees may return to the workplace after day 5 if symptoms are not present or are resolving, and a diagnostic specimen* collected on day 5 or later tests negative.
  • If an employee is unable or chooses not to test and their symptoms are not present or are resolving, isolation can end and the employee may return to the workplace after day 10.
  • If an employee has a fever, isolation must continue and the employee may not return to work until the fever resolves.
  • If an employee’s symptoms other than fever are not resolving, they may not return to work until their symptoms are resolving or until after day 10 from the positive test.
  • Employees must wear face coverings around others for a total of 10 days after the positive test, especially in indoor settings. Please refer to the section in this FAQ on face coverings for additional face covering requirements.

    * Antigen test preferred.

Table 2: Employees Who Are Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (Quarantine)

Requirements apply to employees who are:

  • Unvaccinated+; OR
  • Vaccinated and booster-eligible++ but have not yet received their booster dose.+++

    +Includes persons previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 within the last 90 days.

    ++See Table 4 for definition of booster-eligible.
  • Employees must be excluded from the workplace for at least 5 days after their last close contact with a person who has COVID-19.
  • Exposed employees must test on day 5.
  • Quarantine can end and exposed employees may return to the workplace after day 5 if symptoms are not present and a diagnostic specimen* collected on day 5 or later tests negative.
  • If an employee is unable or chooses not to test and does not have symptoms, quarantine can end and the employee may return to the workplace after day 10.
  • Employees must wear face coverings around others for a total of 10 days after exposure, especially in indoor settings. Please refer to the section in this FAQ on face coverings for additional face covering requirements.
  • If an exposed employee tests positive for COVID-19, they must follow the isolation requirements above in Table 1.
  • If an exposed employee develops symptoms, they must be excluded pending the results of a test.
  • Employees are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated or boosted.

    * Antigen test preferred.

+++Employers are not required to exclude asymptomatic employees in this category if:

  • A negative diagnostic test* is obtained within 3-5 days after last exposure to a case;
  • Employee wears a face covering around others for a total of 10 days (please refer to the section in this FAQ on face coverings for additional face covering requirements); and
  • Employee continues to have no symptoms.

Table 3: Employees Who Are Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (No Quarantine Required)

Requirements apply to employees who are:

  • Boosted; OR
  • Vaccinated, but not yet booster-eligible.×

    × (See Table 4 for definition of booster-eligible)

Employees do not need to quarantine if they:

  • Test on day 5 with a negative result.
  • Wear face coverings around others for 10 days after exposure, especially in indoor settings. Please refer to the section in this FAQ on face coverings for additional face covering requirements.
  • If employees test positive, they must follow isolation recommendations above.
  • If employees develop symptoms, they must be excluded pending the results of a test.

We will continue to check for updates and provide any new information to you as it becomes available. Feel free to contact our office should you need any additional information or clarification about the above.


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