Cal/OSHA Confirms 5-Day Quarantine Period Overrides Exclusion Periods

By Charles L. Thompson, IV, and Karen F. Tynan © Ogletree Deakins January 19, 2022
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​On Jan. 6, California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) updated its answers on the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) isolation recommendation found in its guidance, "COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions."

Cal/OSHA confirmed in its updated FAQs that the CDPH's Dec. 30, 2021 isolation and quarantine recommendations replace the Cal/OSHA emergency temporary standards (ETS). In reaching its conclusion, Cal/OSHA relied on Gov. Gavin Newsom's Executive Order N-84-20. As Cal/OSHA reads the executive order, the CDPH's and/or local jurisdiction's quarantine and isolation recommendations override ETS quarantine and isolation periods if the ETS exclusions period is longer that the CDPH's and/or local jurisdiction's recommendations.

Cal/OSHA specifically confirmed the following quarantine and isolation periods for workers who test positive or are exposed to someone with COVID-19:

Employees Who Test Positive for COVID-19 

  • "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."

Employees Who Are Unvaccinated or Booster Eligible but not Boosted

  • "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."

Cal/OSHA considers "unvaccinated" to include workers who have had Covid-19 in the last 90 days.

Employees Who Are Boosted or Vaccinated and Not Yet 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."
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Effective Date

Cal/OSHA explained that the CDPH recommendations took effect immediately but clarified and explained that the June 17, 2021, ETS remained in effect until Jan. 14. Until then (Jan. 14), the quarantine rules for fully vaccinated workers set forth in the current ETS continued to apply because the exclusion period for fully vaccinated workers was not longer than those recommended by the updated CDPH guidance.

Importantly, Cal/OSHA advised employers to review and begin the process of communicating and implementing the CDPH recommendations. The CDPH recommendations replaced exclusion periods and return to work criteria for all workers when the second readoption of the ETS took effect on Jan. 14.

Charles L. Thompson, IV, is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in San Francisco. Karen F. Tynan is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Sacramento, Calif. © 2022 Ogletree Deakins. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 


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