COVID-19 and the Workplace Today

07.21.22Baylee Davies

COVID-19 and the Workplace Today

COVID-19 continues to be a highly contagious infectious disease and CDPH recently acknowledged that COVID-19 is an airborne disease, rather than one spread by respiratory droplets. With that said, employers remain subject to the workplace requirements set forth by the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) which align with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines. On June 8, 2022, CDPH announced a new order redefining close contact as “someone sharing the same indoor airspace (e.g., home, clinic waiting room, airplane etc.) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during an infected person’s (laboratory-confirmed or a clinical diagnosis) infectious period. 

An infectious period is now defined as follows:

For symptomatic infected persons, 2 days before the infected person had any symptoms through Day 10 after symptoms first appeared (or through Days 5-10 if testing negative on Day 5 or later), and 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and symptoms have improved.

For asymptomatic infected persons, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date through Day 10 after positive specimen collection date (or through Days 5-10 if testing negative on Day 5 or later) after specimen collection date for their first positive COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 cases are now on the rise and it is imperative that employers understand what standards in today’s workplace remain in place and what the obligations are in maintaining a safe work environment for all employees. See CAL/OSHA’s FAQs, Fact Sheet and CDPH FAQs for more detailed information.

COVID-19 Guidance Today

Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19:1. Exclude from Workplace

2. Isolation can end after Day 5 if symptoms are not present or are resolving and a diagnostic specimen* collected on Day 5 or later tests negative

3. If unable to test, choosing not to test, or testing positive on Day 5 (or later), isolation can end after Day 10 if fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications

4. Per CDPH masking guidance, infected persons should wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings
Asymptomatic Persons Exposed to Someone with COVID-19:1. No Quarantine 

2. Test within 3-5 days after last exposure
Per CDPH masking guidance, close contacts should wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor setting

3. If symptoms develop, test and stay home (see below section on symptomatic persons), AND

4. If test result is positive, follow isolation recommendations above
All persons with COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of vaccination status or previous infection, should:1. Self-isolate and test as soon as possible to determine infection status

2. For symptomatic persons who have tested positive within the previous 90 days, using an antigen test is preferred

3. Remain in isolation while waiting for testing results. If not tested, employee should continue isolating for 10 days after the day of symptom onset, and if they cannot isolate, should wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days

4. Consider continuing self-isolation and retesting with an antigen or PCR test in 1-2 days if testing negative with an antigen test, particularly if tested during the first 1-2 days of symptoms

5. Continue to self-isolate if the test result is positive, follow recommended actions above
COVID-19 standards in the workplace as of May 6, 2022:1. Elimination of all face-covering requirements regardless of vaccination status

2. Face coverings are only required in the following scenarios: when required by the CDPH, when a COVID positive case returns to work after testing negative (on or after Day 5)

3. The definition of “COVID-19 test” was simplified to make it easier to use self-administered and self-read tests; just a date/time-stamped photo of the test result is acceptable

4. The definition of “fully vaccinated” was deleted as this term is no longer used in the regulations. All protections now apply regardless of vaccination status and ETS requirements do not vary based on an employee’s vaccination status

5. Cleaning and disinfecting requirements were deleted

6. Respirators must be provided for voluntary use to employees who request them and who work indoors or in vehicles with other persons

7. COVID-19 testing must be made available to all employees with COVID-19 symptoms

8. COVID Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (CSPSL) is mandated for all employers with 26 or more employees in CA 

9. A written COVID-19 Prevention Program

CAL/OSHA ETS is due to expire in December of 2022, but the chances of continued pandemic regulations in the workplace are likely, with talks of possibly eliminating the requirement for Exclusion Pay, so stay tuned! In the meantime, contact us for more information and/or assistance with your COVID-19 workplace protocols.

About the Author

Marsi Harris, “Madre of HR”

Marsi is an HR Consultant who has been with SDHRC for over 2 years but has over 17 years of experience in talent management, organizational development, compensation analysis, and HR compliance. In the free time that Marsi does have, she enjoys traveling and enjoying time with her family.