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California Relaxes COVID-19 Isolation and Testing Guidelines

Acknowledging that we are now at “a different point in time with reduced impacts from COVID-19 compared to previous years,” the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has updated its COVID-19 isolation guidelines in an effort to minimize workplace disruption when a person tests positive for the virus.

Under the new guidelines, those who test positive for COVID-19 but have “mild and improving symptoms” need only isolate “until 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications.” Moreover, people who test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms need not isolate at all. However, the CDPH still advises any person who tests positive for COVID-19 to wear a mask and avoid contact with those at higher risk of severe disease for 10 days.

Please consult the guidelines for updated definitions of “close contact” as well.  

In response to these updates, Cal/OSHA has provided new testing guidance for the COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations. Now, in isolated cases of COVID-19, employers must only test “people with new COVID-19 symptoms” and “close contacts who are at higher risk of severe disease or who have contact with people who are at higher risk of severe disease” rather than all close contacts.

However, employers are still required to make free COVID-19 testing available to all close contacts (except for asymptomatic employees who recently recovered from COVID-19) during paid time.

The definition of “outbreak” has also been relaxed in non-healthcare settings—an outbreak is now at least three COVID-19 cases in a seven-day period rather than three or more COVID-19 cases in a fourteen-day period. If an outbreak occurs under the new definition, employers must still follow the testing, investigation and other rules outlined in California Code of Regulations § 3205.1.

You can find more information in Cal/OSHA’s recently updated COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Standards Frequently Asked Questions.

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health website has updated its instructions for COVID-19 cases to conform to the CDPH’s new guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reportedly plans to follow California’s lead and drop its five-day COVID-19 isolation recommendation under new guidance expected to be released in April for public feedback.

We encourage you to reach out to a member of our Employment Law Group with any questions or concerns.

Categories: Coronavirus