If you are looking for a silver lining in the giant Omicron clouds hovering (and surging) over us, we are happy to confirm that the CDC, the California Department of Public Health, and Cal/OSHA are finally aligned on the important topic of timing for isolation and quarantine periods for employers. (If you are wondering what the difference is between “isolation” and “quarantine,” there’s more good news: pursuant to a CDC update on January 4, 2022 the CDC has clarified that “you quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus and may or may not have been infected” and “you isolate when you are sick or when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms.”)

Although the CDC shortened quarantine and isolation periods on December 27, 2021, California employers have been wading through some confusing guidance regarding whether they could follow the CDC shortened periods when Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards provided for longer periods.

Yesterday, Cal/OSHA updated its FAQs on COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) to incorporate new guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on isolation and quarantine periods which matched the CDC’s recommendation for shortened isolation or quarantine times in certain situations where people who test positive for COVID-19 and/or are exposed to COVID-19 do not become symptomatic or have symptoms that are resolving without fever for 24 hours.

In relevant part, the updated FAQ section on Isolation and Quarantine provides:

“Q: How do the January 6, 2022 changes to CDPH’s recommended isolation and quarantine periods affect the ETS? A:In December of 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order N-84-20, which states that the recommended isolation and quarantine periods in the ETS (also called “exclusion periods” in the ETS) will be overridden by any applicable isolation or quarantine recommendation by the CDPH or, if applicable, the local health department with jurisdiction over the workplace, if the periods in the ETS are longer than those recommended by the CDPH or local health department. If the CDPH and local health department isolation and quarantine recommendations differ, the required exclusion period under the ETS is the longer of the two.

This means that, with only one exception noted below, the new isolation and quarantine recommendations from CDPH replace the exclusion periods and return to work criteria in sections 3205(c)(9) and 3205(c)(10) of the ETS. The exclusion requirements are as follows in the tables below.

The June 17, 2021 ETS remains in effect until January 14, 2022. Until then, the quarantine rules for fully vaccinated workers set forth therein continue to apply because exclusion period for this group of workers is not longer than those recommended by the updated CDPH guidance. However, employers are encouraged to review and begin the process of implementing the CDPH recommendations before then. The CDPH recommendations will replace exclusion periods and return to work criteria for all workers when the second re-adoption of the ETS takes effect on January 14, 2022.”

The FAQ’s then provide three detailed tables outlining the length of isolation or quarantine periods in various circumstances:

  • Exclusion Requirements for Employees who Test Positive for COVID-19 (Isolation)
  • Employees Who Are Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (Quarantine)
  • Employees Who Are Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (No Quarantine Required)

A fourth table details California COVID-19 vaccine booster recommendations.