New COVID rules for California workplaces go into effect today

New COVID-19 guidelines for workplaces across California go into effect Friday, including changes to rules surrounding face coverings, testing and return to work protocols. 

Back in December, Cal/OSHA revised its Emergency Temporary Standards, which outline how workplaces must deal with COVID cases and prevention.  One of the biggest changes is the isolation period for close contacts and employees who've tested positive for COVID-19. 

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The new quarantine guidelines are meant to reflect the latest guidance from the California Department of Public Health.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID will have to isolate from work for five days, regardless of vaccination status. After five days, anyone who no longer has symptoms can return to work. People whose symptoms are clearing up will be eligible to return to work if they test negative.

It starts to get complicated for people who are exposed to a positive COVID case. According to the new guidance, people who are boosted, or vaccinated but not yet booster eligible, don't have to leave work. They just have to wear a mask for 10 days after exposure, testing five days after exposure. Those who are fully vaccinated but not boosted will have to isolate for at least five days after coming into contact with a positive case. At the five-day mark, they can return to work if they have no symptoms and test negative. People who don't test will have to keep quarantine can end after day 10.

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Employers must now provide free testing to employees during paid work time to anyone who was fully vaccinated when they came into close contact with a positive case. Employees are also required to provide free testing once a week during an outbreak (3 or more cases in 30 days) and twice weekly during a "major outbreak" (20 or more cases in 30 days). Employers must also provide free weekly testing for employees who are restricted from wearing a mask or alternative face covering.

The new rules also include a stipulation that the use of an at-home test must be overseen by either a telehealth professional or the employer. 

RELATED: LA County to require all employers to provide indoor workers with N95 or KN95 masks

Face Coverings

Employees who are exempted from wearing face coverings must stay at least six feet apart from other employees and either be fully vaccinated or be tested for COVID once a week, which employers will need to provide. 

As of Jan. 5 in Los Angeles County, employers are required to provide medical-grade masks such as N95s or KN95s to employees.

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