As California races towards reopening, employers are receiving (often conflicting) guidance on reopening procedures, especially with respect to when a mask is required for vaccinated individuals. In welcome news, it appears the various state agencies are moving towards more uniform policies, which will greatly relieve employers throughout the State.

California Department of Health Guidelines

First,

At its June 9, 2021, special meeting, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted to withdraw the revisions to the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) that had been approved at its June 3rd meeting. You can find more information here.

Despite California’s Plan to Reopen on June 15, 2021, The Revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Still Impose Restrictions in the Workplace

After an all-day meeting on June 3, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board approved revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS” or “regulations”). The Board first indicated a vote to reject the revised regulations, but then did a complete 180 and voted unanimously to approve them as a stop-gap measure while its newly-formed Board subcommittee worked to consider further revisions that are more in line with California’s Department of Public Health and  CDC guidelines.

Below are just some of the highlights from the revised ETS:

  • The revised ETS contain some new terms that are relevant when analyzing an employee’s exposure to COVID-19.

o   The term “Close contact” replaces the previous term “COVID-19 exposure.” “Close contact” is defined as “being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the ‘high-risk exposure period’ defined by this section. This definition applies regardless of the use of face coverings.” (§3205(b)(1).)

o   The term “Exposed group” replaces the previous term “Exposed workplace.” “Exposed group” is defined as “all employees at a work location, working area, or a common area at work, where an employee COVID-19 case was present at any time during the high-risk exposure period.  A common area at work includes bathrooms, walkways, hallways, aisles, break or eating areas, and waiting areas.” (§3205(b)(7).)

o   There are certain exceptions where individuals will not be considered to be in the “exposed group” – e.g. where a person momentarily passes through a place where everyone is wearing face coverings, where a person was not present at the same time (e.g. on a different shift) from the COVID-19 case, or where the COVID-19 case visited a work location or area for less than 15 minutes during the high-risk exposure period and everyone was wearing a face covering.

  • The “High-risk exposure period” is defined to mean the following time periods:

o   For COVID-19 cases who develop symptoms, from two days before they first develop symptoms until all the following are true: 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; 24 hours have passed with no fever, without use of fever-reducing medications; and symptoms have improved.

o   For COVID-19 cases who never develop symptoms, from two days before until 10 days after the specimen for their first positive test for COVID-19 was collected.
Continue Reading Cal/OSHA Update: Don’t Take That Mask Off Just Yet!

On March 19, 2021, Governor Newsom signed legislation ensuring new supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) for eligible workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, SB 95, provides up to 80 hours of paid leave for employees who are forced to miss work for qualifying reasons. The SPSL covers many more employers than previous legislation,

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”) was signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021.  Part 5 of the ARPA provides for additional credits to employers whose choose to grant paid sick leave and emergency family leave to eligible employees under the FFCRA.

To be clear, the ARPA does not require employers provide

The CDC’s guidelines state that individuals should quarantine for 14 days after contact with someone with COVID-19, which can be reduced to 10 days if no symptoms developed after exposure.  Now that vaccines are becoming more widely available, employers are asking whether the quarantine period can be shortened or eliminated for their workers who have received the vaccine.

The CDC has stated that the quarantine period can be eliminated entirely for a fully vaccinated individual who meets all criteria – but the guidance is conditioned on the individual meeting all three criteria:

The criteria for allowing a vaccinated individual to skip quarantine – and continue working – after exposure to a COVID-19 case, are:
Continue Reading Updated CDC Guidance: Fully Vaccinated Individuals Need Not Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure