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Special Bulletin: Federal COVID-19 Prevention Guidance Shifts Focus
On August 11, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) published new guidance updating its approach to COVID-19 prevention. The new CDC guidance reflects some of the current requirements applicable to California employers, but it also includes several departures from State COVID-19 requirements and practices. Employers should be aware of the new guidance, but they should continue to follow State and local COVID-19-related requirements since the new CDC guidance does not replace or terminate any current requirements.
This bulletin examines the new CDC guidance and identifies the sources of State- and local-level requirements that still apply to California employers.
Overview of New CDC Guidance
The new CDC guidance focuses on preventing “medically significant COVID-19 illness” rather than preventing all COVID-19 infections. It recognizes that increased community resistance, through natural immunity and vaccines, has reduced the risk of serious COVID-19 cases and the damage they may inflict. The new guidance lists four measures to help individuals prevent more serious COVID-19 cases: 1) understand their risk; 2) take steps to protect themselves and others through vaccines, therapeutics, and non-pharmaceutical interventions when needed; 3) receive testing and wear masks if they have been exposed; and 4) receive testing if they are symptomatic, and isolate for at least five days if they are infected.
Notably, the CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer differentiate between people based on vaccination status because, although breakthrough infections occur, they are generally mild. Additionally, unvaccinated people who have had COVID-19 have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection. As a result, the CDC no longer recommends quarantine for asymptomatic close contacts, regardless of vaccination status.
The new CDC guidance does recommend strong protective measures for individuals who may face a heightened risk from COVID-19: the immunocompromised, the elderly, or individuals with underlying medical conditions (including pregnancy). The guidance describes prophylactic measures, like antiviral agents and monoclonal antibodies, which may help protect individuals at a higher risk from COVID-19. It also encourages the use of personal protective equipment like masks and respirators for those who are highly vulnerable.
Current State and Local Requirements Still Apply
California employers must understand that the new CDC guidance does not change the current workplace COVID-19 prevention requirements. State and local Orders still have the force of law, including the June 8, 2022 State Public Health Officer Order. The Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) and Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard still have full force and effect (depending upon which standard applies to your workplace). Any local health department requirements will remain unchanged by the new CDC guidance.
California employers should continue to observe and enforce COVID-19 prevention requirements until they change at the state or local levels. It may be necessary to explain to employees that the new CDC guidance does not change any of the state or local requirements, although the shifting focus at the federal level may signify similar adjustments for the State and its municipalities in the future.
LCW attorneys are monitoring developments in COVID-19 guidance and requirements, and they are available to help employers with prevention and compliance efforts.
 Massetti GM, Jackson BR, Brooks JT, et al. Summary of Guidance for Minimizing the Impact of COVID-19 on Individual Persons, Communities, and Health Care Systems — United States, August 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 11 August 2022. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7133e1.
 The new CDC guidance describes “medically significant COVID-19 illness” as severe acute illness and post–COVID-19 conditions, which may involve hospitalization or, in some cases, lead to death.
 California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”), State Public Health Officer Order – Beyond the Blueprint (June 8, 2022) (accessed on August 12, 2022) <https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Order-of-the-State-Public-Health-Officer-Beyond-Blueprint.aspx>.
 8 C.C.R. §§ 3205, et seq.
 8 C.C.R. §§ 5199, et seq.