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California Implements Updated CDC Guidance on Isolation and Quarantine Periods With Its Own Adjustments

On December 30, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) published revised guidance to partially align with the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines regarding limiting the time frames for an individual isolating after contracting COVID-19 and quarantining   when exposed to the virus. However, the CDPH has taken it one step further by adding other requirements, including clarification on improved masking as well as the option to test out of the 10-day quarantine, on Day 5 through producing a negative COVID-19 test.

Updated Isolation and Quarantine Guidance

The list below outlines the amended guidance for those who have contracted or have been exposed to COVID-19:

Tested Positive for COVID-19

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, previous infection or lack of symptoms are recommended to take the following action:

  1. Stay home for at least 5 days;
    1. Isolation can end after day 5 if symptoms are not present or are resolving and a diagnostic specimen (antigen test preferred) collected on day 5 or later tests negative;
  2. If unable to test or choosing not to test, and symptoms are not present or are resolving, isolation can end after day 10.
  3. If fever is present, isolation should be continued until fever resolves.
  4. If symptoms, other than fever, are not resolving continue to isolate until symptoms are resolving or until after day 10.
  5. Wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings.

Quarantining after COVID-19 Exposure

The CDHP has provided clarification on how individuals should isolate after being exposed, based on their vaccination or booster status, if applicable.

  1. Unvaccinated or Vaccinated and “Booster Eligible,” But Not Boosted: Individuals must take the following steps if they are unvaccinated or are vaccinated but have yet to complete their booster regiment:
    • Stay home for at least 5 days after being exposed.
    • Complete a COVID-19 test on Day 5
    • Quarantine can end after Day 5 if symptoms are not present, and a diagnostic specimen collected on Day 5 or later tests negative.
    • If unable to test or choosing not to test and symptoms are not present, quarantine can end after Day 10.
    • Wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings.
  1. Boosted or Vaccinated But Not Yet “Booster Eligible”: Individuals must take the following steps if they’re fully boosted or if they’ve been vaccinated but not yet become “booster eligible”:
    • Isolation or Quarantine is not required.
    • Wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings.
    • Completion of a diagnostic test should occur on the 5th day following initial exposure.

When determining an individual’s “booster eligibility,” the CDPH refers to the CDC guidelines on booster shoots. Depending on which version of the vaccination was initial received, this will determine how soon, and which version of the booster shot should be obtained. 

During the days following isolation or exposure when masks are worn, all persons should optimize mask fit and filtration, ideally through use of a surgical mask or respirator. Further information on masking from the CDHP can be found here.

How Cal/OSHA Plays a Role

In December 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-84-20, which states that the recommended isolation and quarantine periods in the Cal/OSHA ETS will be overruled by any CDPH isolation or quarantine recommendation, if the Cal/OSHA ETS periods are longer than those recommended by CDPH. Recently, Cal/OSHA issued an updated FAQ that confirms that the new isolation and quarantine guidelines issued by the CDPH will replace the exclusion periods and return to work criteria within the ETS. Meaning that, employers will not have to require employees to social distance if they are not excluded or return to work. However, employees who are fully boosted or vaccinated, but not yet booster-eligible, who cannot be tested following exposure, must wear a face covering and maintain 6 feet distance from others for the 14 days following the exposure. Additionally, the above mentioned 5 day testing to return to work requirement from the CDHP will be applied to the Cal/OSHA ETS.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers are strongly encouraged to continue to review local isolation and quarantine guidelines as the CDPH has explicitly stated that “local health jurisdictions may be more restrictive in determining isolation and quarantine recommendations based on local circumstances, in certain higher-risk settings or during certain situations that may require more protective isolation and quarantine requirements (for example, during active outbreaks).” Moreover, employers should consult with legal counsel regarding any concerns or questions relating to any differentiations between applicable local, state, or federal COVID-19 guidance. 

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.