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CDPH Adopts Shortened Isolation/Quarantine Periods with Unclear Application to Workplaces, Including Schools
On December 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) shortened its recommended isolation and quarantine periods for people who test positive for, or are exposed to, COVID-19. On December 30, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) followed suit by partially adopting the CDC’s shorter isolation and quarantine recommendations for the general public. The new CDPH guidance shortens the minimum time recommended for isolation and quarantine from 10 days to five days in alignment with timeframe recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as discussed below, but includes an additional recommendation that an individual receive a negative COVID-19 test in order to exit quarantine and isolation periods after five days. While this updated guidance applies to the general public, as discussed in the bulletin, it is unclear to what extent this new guidance applies in workplaces[i] including school settings.
A. Applicability of the CDPH guidance to Workplace Settings
The updated CDPH guidance references the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). Apparently, employers should consult those regulations for workplace requirements. The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board recently adopted a number of amendments to the ETS, which included reinstating a longer 14 day quarantine period for unvaccinated employees, unless they satisfy certain return to work requirements.
There is authority, however, that may support the application of the shortened CDPH quarantine and isolation periods to the workplace setting. More than a year ago, on December 14, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order N-84-20, which provided that if the Cal/OSHA ETS had a quarantine or isolation period longer than that recommended by the CDPH, the CDPH standard would apply. However, it is unclear whether the CDPH guidance applies the shortened quarantine and isolation periods to the workplace setting. The CDPH guidance directs employers to follow the ETS, which continues to include the longer isolation and quarantine periods. Until guidance is provided by Cal/OSHA on this issue, we recommend that employers continue to follow the longer 10-day isolation period and 10 or 14 day[ii] quarantine periods (depending on vaccination status and whether the employee is symptomatic) as set forth in the ETS.
B. Applicability of the CDPH guidance to School Settings
The new CDPH Guidance provides that: “For quarantine considerations in K-12 school settings, see CDPH K-12 Schools Guidance and CDPH K-12 testing strategies.” The CDPH last updated the K-12 Schools Guidance on November 24, 2021. As a result, it seems the new CDPH guidance does not apply in the school setting. Rather, the prior guidance may still control.
However, there is an important exception for isolation periods. The CDPH K-12 Schools Guidance provides: “For both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons, follow the CDPH Isolation Guidance for those diagnosed with COVID-19.” The link to the Isolation Guidance is to the new CDPH shortened isolation period. Therefore, in the school setting, it appears the shortened isolation period of five days may apply. There is no language to suggest whether the isolation period applies to both students and employees. In any case, it is important for schools to refer to their local public health department guidance. Many counties have recently implemented new guidance regarding quarantine and isolation periods in response to the updated CDC and CDPH guidance that clarify this issue.
C. Summary of new CDPH Guidance on Shortened Isolation and Quarantine Periods
While our current recommendation is that California schools refrain from adopting the CDPH’s shortened quarantine and isolation periods for the general public to employees until further guidance is issued by Cal/OSHA or the CDPH, we have provided a summary of the new CDPH guidance on shortened isolation and quarantine periods below.
A. Shortened Isolation Period
Under the new CDPH guidance, if an individual tests positive for COVID-19, the individual should follow the following procedures:
- The individual should stay at home for at least five days after the onset of symptoms or after testing positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, even if the individual has no symptoms.
- After day five, the individual can exit isolation if not experiencing symptoms or symptoms are resolving and a diagnostic specimen collected on day five or later tests negative for COVID-19. The CDPH states that an antigen test is preferred for ending isolation.
- If an individual is unable to test or chooses not to test, and symptoms are not present or are resolving, isolation can end after day 10.
- If fever is present, isolation should be continued until fever resolves.
- If symptoms, other than fever are not resolving, individuals should continue to isolate until symptoms are resolving or until after day 10.
- Individuals should wear a well-fitting mask[iii] around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings.
B. Shortened Quarantine Period for Unvaccinated Individuals or Individuals who are Eligible for and have not Received a Booster Shot
For individuals who have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive case and are unvaccinated[iv], or are eligible for, but have not received a booster shot, the following quarantine period applies:
- The individual should stay home for at least five days after last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
- Test on day five.
- Quarantine can end after day five if symptoms are not present and a diagnostic specimen collected on day 5 or later tests negative.
- If unable to test or choosing not to test, and symptoms are not present, quarantine can end after day 10.
- Individuals should wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days, especially in indoor settings.
C. Individuals who are Fully Vaccinated and Received a Booster or are not Booster Eligible and Have had Close Contact with a Positive COVID-19 Case
A quarantine is not required. However, these individuals should test for COVID-19 on day five after close contact exposure, and wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days post exposure, especially in indoor settings.
LCW is continuing to track CDPH and Cal/OSHA guidance on shortened quarantine and isolation periods closely, and will provide schools with updates as new guidance is issued.
[i] The updated CDPH guidance on shortened isolation and quarantine periods states that it does not apply to healthcare personnel.
[ii] The ETS provides for a 14-day quarantine for unvaccinated employees who are asymptomatic. However, the regulations provide two exceptions to the general rule: (1) where 10 days have passed since the close contact and the employee wears a face covering and maintains six feet of distance while at the workplace for 14 days following the close contact; or (2) Seven (7) days have passed since the close contact and the employee tested negative for COVID-19 with a specimen taken at least five days after the close contact and the employee wears a face covering and maintains six feet of distance while at the workplace for 14 days following the close contact. See 8 C.C.R. § 3205(c)(10)(D)(1).
[iii] The CDPH recommends that during the days following isolation or exposure when masks are worn, all persons should optimize mask fit and filtration, ideally through use of a surgical mask or respirator (see Get the Most out of Masking for more information).
[iv] Includes persons previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, including within the last 90 days.