This month’s change in CDC guidance on Covid-19 exposures and cases continues to sow confusion amongst CA employers.
While the CDC does not require testing for Covid-19 exposures or for positive cases to end isolation, guidance from the CA Department of Public Health and Cal-OSHA rules have not been updated since May 2022. Accordingly, we wanted to review some of the obligations still in effect for CA employers.
Positive COVID-19 cases
Employees, regardless of vaccination status, must be excluded from the workplace for at least five (5) days. Employees can only return to work after five days if they have a negative antigen test AND symptoms have improved/ceased.
Employees who continue to test positive on an antigen test may return to work after 10 days provided they have been fever -free for 24 hours without use of fever reduction medicine.
Employees who are unable or refuse to test may return to work after 10 days.
Exposure to COVID-19
While we are all likely exposed to Covid-19 every day we leave our homes, neither CDC nor CDPH requires exposed employees to quarantine regardless of vaccination status, so long as employees are asymptomatic.
But CDPH still mandates testing 3-5 days after the employee’s last “close contact,” a term CDPH has broadened to include sharing any indoor airspace for more than 15 minutes cumulatively over a 24-hour period (6-feet apart is no longer relevant).
Symptomatic employees with known exposure are required to quarantine until a test returns a negative result. Symptomatic exposed employees who are unable or refuse to test may return to work after 10.
Both asymptomatic and symptomatic employees with known exposure must mask for 10 days.
CA Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (“SPSL”) remains in effect through September 30. 2022, unless extended for non-work related cases/exposures.
Cal-OSHA exclusion pay also remains in effect through December 31, 2022 for work-related cases/exposures.
AB 685 and Cal-OSHA still require notice to employees at a worksite when a positive case is identified. Employers must provide written notification to all employees (and, if applicable, their union representatives) and independent contractors who were at the worksite at the same time as the COVID-19 case during the infectious period of any potential exposures within one business day (and notifying any other employer who has potentially exposed employees in the workplace).
Employers must provide no-cost testing to employees exposed at work. If Employers require a test they are required to pay for both the test and time testing.
Testing must also be provided for exposure in workplace outbreaks of 3 or more employees and major outbreaks.
Cal-OSHA only permits use of an over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 test that is both self-administered and self-read if verification of the results, such as a time and date stamped photograph of the result or an OTC test that uses digital reporting with time and date stamped results, is provided.
Bottom line is that even though popular culture continues to evolve in terms of COVID-fatigue and practices, California law still demands employer vigilance on existing rules and regulations.