As if things were not confusing enough for employers, Governor Newsom has issued another Executive Order, this time reducing Cal/OSHA’s recently passed regulation mandating a 14-day exclusion period for asymptomatic employees who are exposed to COVID-19. The Executive Order, effective immediately, aligns with the California Department of Public Health’s (“CDPH”) recently issued quarantine guidelines reducing the amount of time employers are required to exclude employees who have had COVID-19 exposures from the worksite.

We recently explained the new Cal/OSHA emergency regulations related to COVID-19 that went into effect November 30, 2020. The new regulation, among other things, generally requires employees that who were exposed to COVID-19 to be excluded from working at the worksite for 14 days. Employers were generally required to maintain earnings for the excluded employee during this 14-day exclusion period.

The new Executive Order appears to adopt the CHPD’s recently updated quarantine guidelines which requires only a 10-day mandatory quarantine for asymptomatic individuals (vs. the 14-day quarantine mandated by Cal/OSHA) with or without testing. While this is good news for employers because employees can return to work sooner and will potentially reduce the period for which an employer has to continue paying an exposed employee with their earnings, there are caveats.

CHPD’s new guidelines require that asymptomatic employees who are permitted to return to work with less than 14 days of quarantine to:

  • 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. 

You can find the new CHPH quarantine guidelines here.

Specifically, the Executive Order suspends the exclusion periods and return to work periods that exceed “any applicable quarantine or isolation period recommended by the CDPH, including in the December 14, 2020 updated COVID-19 Quarantine Guidelines” or “any applicable quarantine or isolation period recommended or ordered by a local health officer who has jurisdiction over the workplace.”

However, it is important to note that many local health orders, including LA County’s health department, still require a 14-day quarantine period for individuals exposed to COVID-19. That may be amended soon to reflect the new guidelines issued by CPHD but in the meantime, employers should monitor local orders and follow the longer prescribed quarantine periods.