COVID-19: California Nixes Negative Test Requirement to End Isolation Early
On March 3, 2023, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced changes to its COVID-19 guidelines. A few days later, the County of Los Angeles announced it will align a few of its guidelines with the CDPH.
The below changes, which coincide with ending COVID-19 emergency conditions in the state and the county, provide further relief from COVID-19 restrictions:
Negative Test No Longer Required to End Isolation Early
Beginning March 13, 2023, a person who tests positive for COVID-19 may end isolation after five days if the person feels well, has improving symptoms, and is fever-free for 24 hours. A negative test on day 5 or later is no longer a requirement.
While a negative test is no longer required to end isolation early, Los Angeles County “strongly recommends that people test negative prior to leaving isolation between days 6-10,” and continues to require face coverings for those who end isolation early – through day 10. Those who test positive for COVID-19 may discontinue wearing a mask around others between days 6-10 if they have two sequential negative tests taken at least one day apart.
Revised Masking Guidelines in High-Risk Settings
Starting April 3, 2023, California will implement new masking guidance which replaces the mandatory masking requirements in “high-risk settings,” with recommendations based on levels of community spread of COVID-19.
Regardless of the COVID-19 community levels, CDPH recommends:
1. Wear a mask around others if you have respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, runny nose, and/or sore throat);
2. Consider wearing a mask in indoor areas of public transportation (such as in airplanes, trains, buses, ferries) and transportation hubs (such as airports, stations, and seaports);
3. If you choose to wear a mask, ensure the mask provides the best fit and filtration (respirators like N95, KN95 and KN94 are best); and
4. Wear a mask for 10 days if you had a significant exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Changes to Vaccine Mandates
Currently, state and local guidelines require certain workers to be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. Starting April 3, 2023, there will no longer be a CDPH vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, including those in adult care, direct care, correctional facilities, and detention centers.
The County, however, will continue to require healthcare workers to be vaccinated and wear a mask during patient care or working in patient care areas, and will reassess these requirements by the end of September 2023. As of April 3, 2023, the County will only end the vaccine mandate for workers at correctional, detention, and adult care facilities.
What Does This Mean for Employers?
Employers in California must continue to follow the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA’s) regulations regarding COVID-19. Generally, Cal/OSHA regulations follow several CDPH guidelines to make it easier for employers to follow COVID-19 requirements at work.
Following the change in CDPH guidelines re isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, Cal/OSHA announced it will publish updated FAQs to reflect these changes.
As always, local, regional and state regulations sometimes conflict. Employers with any questions regarding compliance should contact employment counsel.
Tal Burnovski Yeyni is an employment defense and compliance attorney.