By Adam Nathaniel Arce and Julie Ann Giammona
The new year brings long awaited, relaxed isolation and testing guidance from the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”). This is what a California Employer needs to know.
New Infectious Period Definition for Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Cases
The COVID-19 infectious period now commences at the onset of symptoms. This means employees with no symptoms, (but who test positive), are no longer required to isolate at home, and may remain in the workplace, so long as they wear a mask for 10 days from the date of the positive test and avoid contact with high-risk persons.
Conversely, symptomatic employees who test positive should isolate until fever free for 24-hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication), and all other symptoms are mild and improving. Once this occurs, they may also return to the office so long as they wear a mask for 10 days from the date of the positive test and avoid contact with high-risk persons.
Employer Testing Requirements
The CDPH no longer requires testing for all close contacts. Instead, testing is recommended where a close contact has COVID-19 symptoms, is at a higher risk of severe disease, or has contact with people with a higher risk of disease. Regardless of these new standards, however,
employers must still provide COVID-19 testing, at no cost and during working hours, to a close contact employee unless the close contact employee is asymptomatic or recently recovered from COVID-19.
In the case of an outbreak (defined as three or more employees in an exposed group in a seven-day period), employers are still required to offer testing to all close contacts during the outbreak. If an employee has symptoms during an outbreak, but refuses to test, they must be excluded from the worksite for at least 24 hours from the commencement of symptoms. Such employees may only return when their symptoms are mild and improving, and they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Some COVID-19 Requirements Have Not Changed
Employer Provided Masks: Employers must continue to provide masks when required by CDPH. This means employers should provide asymptomatic COVID-19 employees with a mask for 10 days from the date of the positive COVID- 19 test. Similarly, employers should provide masks to symptomatic employees for 10 days from the onset of symptoms one they are allowed back to
Provide Notice: The notice requirement remains the same: within one business day of knowledge, an employer must notify employees and independent contractors who had a close contact with a COVID-19 case. This notice must include information regarding COVID-19 related benefits such as how to file a state disability claim or workers compensation claim if it appears employee contracted COVID-19 in the workplace.
Given the CDPH’s relaxation of certain standards, it is important that employers update their COVID-19 policies to ensure compliance. Ferber Law is available to assist in this process and help answer questions relating to the current COVID-19 standards.
DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.