California’s Governor has signed a new executive order on December 14, 2020 to address several issues regarding COVID-19. One of the issues addressed modifies Cal-OSHA’s recent emergency COVID-19 regulation, which went into effect on November 30, 2020. The new Cal-OSHA regulation currently requires employers to exclude employees from the workplace with COVID exposure for 14 days and are not allowed to return to work until:
- At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 F has resolved without fever-reducing medications;
- COVID-19 symptoms have improved; and
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
The Governor’s new executive order now suspends Cal-OSHA’s emergency regulation Sections 3205(c)(10) and (11) where exclusion requirements are longer than the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) new guidance also issued on December 14, 2020. The CDPH guidance shortens the quarantine period for asymptomatic close contacts from 14 to 10 days with or without testing. However, if local public health officials require longer quarantine or isolation periods these must be followed.
The CDPH guidance also now allows, during critical staffing shortages only, for essential critical infrastructure workers to return to work after the seventh day from the date of their last exposure if they have received a negative PCR test result from a specimen collected after the fifth day from exposure. The CDPH defines critical infrastructure workers as exposed asymptomatic health care workers and emergency response and social service workers who work face-to-face with clients in the child welfare system or in assisted living facilities.
It is important to note that the CDPH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) both still recommend a quarantine period of 14 days after exposure. This is based on current estimates for the upper bounds of COVID-19’s incubation period. The new CDPH guidance provides highlights the risks associated with bringing employees back to work prior to the 14-day period explaining that a 14-day period is currently the maximal method for reducing the risk of post-quarantine transmission. However, they recognize that a 14-day quarantine period can cause economic, physical, and mental stress that can reduce compliance and reporting. They state that the post quarantine risk of bringing an employee back at 10 days is between 1% to 10% and 5% to 12% for a seven-day return with a negative PCR test. For these reasons, the CDPH guidance requires that employees returning to work before the 14-day recommended period follow the requirements below:
- Adhere strictly to all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions, including wearing face coverings at all times, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others and the interventions required below, through day 14.
- Use surgical face masks at all times during work for those returning after day 7 and continue to use face coverings when outside the home through day 14 after last exposure.
- Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms through day 14 and if symptoms occur, immediately self-isolate and contact their local public health department or healthcare provider and seek testing.
Information on Cal-OSHA’s emergency regulation along with support documents can be found here.
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