Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Nov 04, 2021

Cal/OSHA updates FAQs on quarantine for unvaccinated workers

COVID-19Safety and Health 

Cal/OSHA recently updated the FAQs for its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to allow a shortened quarantine period for unvaccinated workers who are exposed to the virus. The ETS, which took effect on June 17, 2021, requires most unvaccinated workers who are exposed to COVID-19 (coronavirus) to quarantine for at least 10 days to see whether symptoms develop. The ETS allows limited exceptions for essential critical infrastructure workers in health care, emergency response, and social services to return after 7 days if they’re asymptomatic and test negative on a PCR test collected after day 5.

On October 22, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidance on isolation and quarantine which follows the lead of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Now all unvaccinated people in California who are exposed to COVID-19 may discontinue isolation after 7 days following exposure as long as: (1) they don’t develop symptoms; (2) they submit a sample for testing on or after day 5; and (3) the test result is negative. If they don’t take a test, they must quarantine for 10 days to see whether symptoms develop.

For 14 days after exposure, CDPH says all exposed individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should self-monitor for symptoms each day and follow all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions such as wearing a mask around other people, washing their hands, avoiding crowds, and keeping at least 6 feet apart from others. Cal/OSHA’s FAQs incorporated CDPH’s new isolation and quarantine guidance on October 27, 2021, and stated that if an employer prevents an exposed worker from following those non-pharmaceutical interventions, the longer exclusion periods in the ETS apply.

Tips: Fully vaccinated employees don’t have to quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID-19. If an employee develops symptoms (regardless of vaccination status), all of the timelines above go out the window and instead you’ll need to ensure they follow the guidance on isolation instead of quarantine. See the accompanying Q&A in today’s newsletter on how to respond when an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.