Since our blog post only a week ago concerning the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) guidance on isolation and quarantine periods and its implications for the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), the CDPH has revised this guidance (January 6, 2022) – this time clarifying quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated employees who are booster eligible, but have not yet received their booster dose. The updated guidance is otherwise unclear on how the other recommended actions apply to a workplace setting.
Then, late yesterday, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issued answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on isolation and quarantine periods under Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS in light of CDPH’s January 6, 2022 recommendations. First, for the reasons we explained in our prior blog post, DOSH has recognized that the “new isolation and quarantine recommendations from CDPH replace the exclusion periods and return to work criteria in sections 3205(c)(9) and 3205(c)(10) of the ETS.”
Second, the FAQs note that the quarantine rules for fully vaccinated workers under the current ETS – in effect until January 14, 2022 – “continue to apply because [the] exclusion period for this group of workers is not longer than those recommended by the updated CDPH guidance.” The ETS currently in effect excepts from the quarantine requirement fully vaccinated employees who experience a close contact and do not have COVID-19 symptoms. The second re-adopted ETS has removed that exception.
The FAQs include several tables listings the actions required for employees to end isolation or quarantine periods before the default 10-day period. This first table identifies actions that must be taken for any employee who test positive for COVID-19, requiring exclusion from the workplace for the first 5 days and allowing the employee to return after the 5th day if certain conditions are met including symptoms resolving, a negative test, and the employee wearing a face covering around others for a total of 10 days following the positive test.
The second table describes the quarantine of unvaccinated and under vaccinated (not receiving eligible booster vaccine) employees experiencing a close contact, requiring exclusion from the workplace for the first 5 days and allowing employees to return after the 5th day under certain conditions including a negative test, no symptoms, and use of a face covering around others.
The third table concerns employees who have received the booster vaccine, or are vaccinated but not eligible for the booster vaccine, and experience a close contact. These individuals do not need to quarantine for any period if the stated conditions are met.
The FAQs also provide guidance on when individuals are eligible for booster vaccines, based on the type of COVID-19 vaccine administered, in the following table.
Lastly, the FAQs address the impact of a COVID-19 test not being obtained following a close contact – a significant concern given present testing shortages – but the FAQs give short shrift to that:
Q: What if tests cannot be obtained following a 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.
Based on this guidance, it is advisable that California employers update their COVID-19 Prevention Programs to modify the isolation and quarantine periods, in addition to addressing changes under the second re-adopted ETS.