Latest COVID-19 Guidance
Latest COVID-19 Guidance to California Employers Regarding
Isolation and Quarantine Periods
Although the CDC shortened quarantine and isolation periods on December 27, 2021 (to five days), it was unclear as to what California employers should do since Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards provided for longer periods (10 days).
On January 5, 2022, Cal/OSHA updated its FAQs on COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) to incorporate the new guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on isolation and quarantine periods which matched the CDC’s recommendation for shortened isolation or quarantine times in certain situations where people who test positive for COVID-19 and/or are exposed to COVID-19 do not become symptomatic or have symptoms that are resolving without fever for 24 hours. The CDC, the California Department of Public Health, and Cal/OSHA are now finally aligned on the topic of timing for isolation and quarantine periods for employees. The updated FAQ section on Isolation and Quarantine contains three useful tables on exclusion periods for employees under different circumstances, which are set forth below.
Also, a CDC update on January 4, 2022, explains what the difference is between “isolation” and “quarantine” as follows: “You quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus and may or may not have been infected” and “you isolate when you are sick or when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms.”
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 testi 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 feverii, isolation must continue and the employee may not return to work until the fever resolvesiii.
- If an employee’s symptoms other than fever are not resolving, they may not return to work until their symptoms are resolved 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.
+++ Refer to CDC COVID-19 Booster Shots to determine who is 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 testiand 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 the last exposure to a case.
- An 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
- The 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.
×× Refer to CDC COVID-19 Booster Shots to determine who is 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 the isolation recommendations above.
- If employees develop symptoms, they must be excluded pending the results of a test.
In addition to the above, pursuant to section 3205(c)(10)(E), when an order to isolate, quarantine, or exclude an employee is issued by a local or state health official, the employee shall not return to work until the period of isolation or quarantine is completed or the order is lifted even if the order exceeds the specified exclusion requirements in the ETS or CDPH recommendation.
Q: What if tests cannot be obtained following close contact?
A: If employees covered by Table 2 cannot be tested as required, quarantine must continue for at least 10 days as explained in the table.
If employees covered by Table 3 cannot be tested on day 5, employers should follow the ETS.
For vaccinated close contacts, as of January 14, 2022, that means wearing a face covering and maintaining six feet of distance for 14 days following the close contact.
i Employers may require employees to submit to viral testing for COVID-19.
Please refer to the FAQ from DFEH for further information.
ii A fever is a measured body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
iii A fever resolves when 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Please contact Arif Virji, Samantha Pungprakearti or Justin Hein for help with your labor and employment law needs at Carle, Mackie, Power & Ross LLP, 707-526-4200, or email at email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.