by Alexandra P. Saddik and Jonathan R. Babione

On July 13, 2020, the state announced that all counties in California must shut down indoor operation of restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums, and cardrooms. Additionally, counties that have been on the County Monitoring List for three days—a list maintained by the state to watch counties with troubling COVID-19 trends—must shut down indoor operation of fitness centers, worship services, non-essential offices, personal care services, hair salons and barber shops, and malls. Counties affected by this order include Contra Costa County, Marin County, Sonoma County, and Solano County. The new orders and a full list of the required counties can be found at

Additionally, as workplaces are reopening and test availability has increased, employers are confronted with the question of what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. County and state guidance have started to address this question more directly. Here is a summary of the current local and state guidance:

Send employee home for self-isolation: An employee that tests positive for COVID-19 should be sent home for at least 14 days. Santa Clara County further expects that, if an employee is symptomatic, the employee should not be allowed back into the workplace until seven days after the symptoms resolve. 

Close and sanitize the workplace: Contra Costa County suggests following the sanitization recommendations issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Once the workplace has been sanitized, employers can reopen.

Trace who in the workplace may have been directly exposed: Close contacts are defined by state and local guidance as someone who spent 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who is infected with COVID-19. The employer should send close contacts home to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Santa Clara County’s guidance is stricter in that it requires close contacts to get tested for COVID-19 twice seven days apart. If the close contact tests positive, the employee should stay home for 14 days from the time of the positive test result.

In contrast, Contra Costa County does not recommend any testing requirements for employees returning to work.

Inform employees of possible exposure: Any notification of possible exposure should not include details about who is infected or any other medical information. The notice should simply state that it is possible employees have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace and recommend that employees self-monitor for symptoms for the next 14 days.

Test employees: State guidance highly recommends that employers arrange for employees to be tested either on site or through the employer’s healthcare provider.

Record in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration: COVID-19 is an OSHA-recordable incident if: (1) the employee contracts COVID-19 in the workplace; (2) is confirmed to have COVID-19; and (3) as a result experiences days away from work, medical treatment beyond first aid, death, restricted work, loss of consciousness, or a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a licensed health care professional.

Inform the local health department of confirmed cases: Local and state guidance both create the expectation that employers report COVID-19 outbreaks to the local health department.

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.