CDPH Redefines “Infectious Period” Definition, Changing Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Requirements

CATEGORY: Special Bulletins
CLIENT TYPE: Nonprofit, Private Education, Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
PUBLICATION: LCW Special Bulletin
DATE: Jan 16, 2024

On January 9, 2024, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) revised its “infectious period” definition for isolation and exclusion purposes.

The updated definitions will affect employer obligations under the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations, which remain in effect until 2025 and relies on CDPH definitions to establish workplace health and safety obligations. These obligations apply to all employers, with the exception of employers of healthcare personnel. Educational institutions should apply the same criteria to students.

In order to ensure compliance with applicable health orders and regulations, California employers must adapt their policies and practices concerning workplace COVID-19 isolation procedures. The purpose of this special bulletin is to review the updated definitions, explain the legal implications for employers, and provide guidance as to how employers should respond to ensure compliance with new legal requirements.

Previously, the “infectious period” extended from two days prior to symptom onset until 10 days after the first appearance of symptoms, provided 24 hours have passed with no fever and symptoms have improved. For the purposes of isolation and exclusion of a confirmed case, the CDPH Health Order revised the definition of “infectious period” as follows:

  • For COVID-19 cases with symptoms, the exclusion period from work is a minimum of 24 hours from the day of the symptom onset.
    • A person with COVID-19 may return to work if the following conditions are satisfied: (1) 24 hours have passed with no fever-reducing medications; and (2) their symptoms are mild and improving.
  • For asymptomatic confirmed COVID-19 cases, there is no infectious period for the purposes of isolation and exclusion. If symptoms develop, the above criteria applies.

For COVID-19 cases that return to work, employers must continue to provide and ensure returning COVID-19 cases use face coverings until 10 days have passed from the date symptoms began, and for asymptomatic cases, from the date of their first positive test.

Liebert Cassidy Whitmore attorneys are closely monitoring developments in relation to this Special Bulletin and are able to advise on the impact this could have on your organization. If you have any questions about this issue, please contact our Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego, or Sacramento office.

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