Cal/OSHA Modifies Quarantine Rules for Asymptomatic, Unvaccinated Workers

By Sean Paisan and Sierra Vierra © Jackson Lewis October 15, 2021
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Without any fanfare, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) updated its FAQs for the COVID-19 emergency temporary standards (ETS) on Sept. 21, to incorporate new guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Importantly, the CDPH has relaxed its quarantine recommendations for unvaccinated, asymptomatic workers.  The ETS, which governs most workplaces in California, requires a 10-day quarantine period in most circumstances. The recent guidance from the CDPH provides an even shorter quarantine option for asymptomatic, unvaccinated employees.  Specifically, asymptomatic, unvaccinated employees may now end their quarantine either 10 days after exposure or 7 days after exposure if they test negative. However, the diagnostic specimen has to be collected at least 5 days from the date of exposure to take advantage of this guidance.

In its FAQs, Cal/OSHA acknowledged that it is required by Executive Order N-84-20 to defer to CDPH's quarantine lengths if they are shorter than the exclusion requirements in the ETS. However, Cal/OSHA also noted, if an employer prevents an employee from complying with the shorter quarantine conditions recommended by the CDPH, then the longer quarantine requirements in the ETS will apply. Additional highlights from the new CDPH guidance are below.

Isolation for Individuals who Test Positive

The CDPH recommends a symptom-based strategy for determining the duration of isolation for people with COVID-19 who are symptomatic. Under this strategy, persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were instructed to care for themselves at home may discontinue self-isolation if all the following conditions are met:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptom onset.
  • At least 24 hours have passed since the resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • Other symptoms have improved.

For persons with COVID-19 who do not have any symptoms, the CDPH recommends they self-isolate at least 10 days from the date of the first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test. If they develop symptoms during this time, the standard for symptomatic individuals above will apply instead.

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Quarantine for Unvaccinated Persons

The CDPH recommends that unvaccinated persons who have had close contact with someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 get tested and self-quarantine. Close contacts that remain asymptomatic may discontinue self-quarantine under the following conditions:

  • Quarantine can end after day 10 from the date of last exposure without testing.
  • Quarantine can end after Day 7 if a diagnostic specimen is collected on day 5 or later from the date of exposure and the test is negative.

In addition to the conditions above, during the 14 days after exposure, the close contact should continue monitoring their symptoms, wear a mask when around others, wash their hands, avoid groups, and stay at least six feet from others. If the person develops symptoms within 14 days of exposure, they should self-isolate immediately and get tested.

Quarantine for Vaccinated Persons

Under the CDPH guidance, the exposed person does not have to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated before the exposure and have not developed symptoms. Similarly, if an exposed person tested positive for COVID-19 before their recent exposure and (1) it has been less than 3 months since they started having symptoms from their prior infection and (2) they have not had any new symptoms, they do not need to quarantine.

Sean Paisan is an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Orange County, Calif. Sierra Vierra is an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Sacramento, Calif. © 2021 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 

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