Summary of Recent Changes
Significant changes to this guidance include the following:
EMS personnel may be exposed to COVID-19 in the community or at home and increase the risk of transmission to patients or other co-workers. Exposures encountered by non-fully vaccinated EMS personnel at work are unlike those that might occur in the community because EMS agencies follow infection control prevention and control procedures and EMS personnel use personal protective equipment (PPE) per strict standards. Due to their often extensive and close contact with vulnerable individuals, EMS personnel with symptoms of possible COVID-19 illness and those with community or high-risk occupational exposures should be managed more conservatively.
These guidelines have evolved as a result of greater experience, the availability of published data on COVID-19, continued evidence of community transmission of COVID-19 including asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, established infection control principles, and the availability of effective COVID-19 vaccines.
In addition to following these monitoring guidelines, EMS provider agencies are expected to protect their staff and patients by following CDC and Cal/OSHA COVID-19 infection prevention guidance including universal use of PPE for patient care, use of N95 respirators for the care of suspect or confirmed COVID-19 cases, and routine respirator fit testing. For more information see:
The following healthcare exposures to a confirmed infectious COVID-19 case* are considered high-risk if the personnel are not fully vaccinated:
*COVID-19 cases are considered to be infectious beginning 2 days prior to symptom onset (or initial positive viral test if case is asymptomatic) until the time they meet criteria for discontinuing transmission based-precautions.
Regardless of vaccination status, EMS personnel with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should be prioritized for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing (and other respiratory viral testing, such as influenza as indicated), even if the symptoms are mild. Positive viral tests (molecular or antigen tests) in vaccinated personnel should not be attributed to the COVID-19 vaccine as vaccination does not affect the results of these tests.
Currently, the CDC does not generally recommend testing asymptomatic HCP who had occupational exposures (see CDC Interim Guidance on Testing Healthcare Personnel for SARS-CoV-2). The CDC does recommend testing exposed non-fully vaccinated close contacts if quarantine is to be discontinued early, see Facilities Experiencing Staffing Shortages below. Re-testing for return to work clearance is not recommended, see EMS Personnel with Confirmed COVID-19 Return-To-Work Protocol below.
EMS Provider Agencies should have a plan to evaluate EMS personnel with symptoms of possible COVID-19 illness. It is recommended that symptomatic personnel be evaluated by a clinician. SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic viral testing is recommended for personnel with even mild symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection. Symptomatic personnel with compatible symptoms and no clear alternate diagnosis should be told to isolate at home pending clinical evaluation and testing.
For EMS personnel who had symptoms of possible COVID-19 and had it ruled out, either with negative PCR test(s) and/or with a clinical assessment that COVID-19 is not suspected (e.g. clear alternate diagnosis), then return to work decisions should be based on their other suspected or confirmed diagnoses.
See CDC Return to Work: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/return-to-work.html
EMS personnel with mild to moderate illness who are not severely immunocompromised can return to work:
Asymptomatic EMS personnel who are not severely immunocompromised should be excluded from work until 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms. If they develop symptoms, follow above guidance.
Symptomatic EMS personnel with severe or critical illness or who are severely immunocompromised can return to work:
Note: Asymptomatic personnel who are severely immunocompromised, should wait to return to work until 20 days since first positive viral diagnostic test.
For current definitions of COVID-19 illness severity and severely immunocompromised see CDC Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Return to Work Practices and Work Restrictions
EMS personnel with confirmed COVID-19 do not need medical or LAC DPH clearance to return to work. Testing of laboratory-confirmed cases is not recommended for return to work due to the prolonged detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA without direct correlation to viral culture. Refer to the CDC Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection for more information on the limitations of using a test-based strategy.
EMS Provider agencies must be prepared for staffing shortages and have plans and processes in place to mitigate them. Every effort should be made to limit exposure to both patients and co-workers. Refer to the CDC Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages for protocols on contingency and crisis strategies for mitigating staffing shortages.
EMS Provider agencies experiencing critical staffing shortages of essential EMS personnel may allow the following unvaccinated/partially vaccinatedEMS personnel to return to work during their quarantine period as long as they remain asymptomatic:
These personnel must observe strict infection control procedures including source control at all times (facemask or respirator required) while working. They must adhere to full home quarantine when not doing their essential work (unless fully vaccinated). They must continue regular daily symptom monitoring and if symptoms occur within 14 days of the exposure, they must be immediately excluded from work and told to isolate at home pending clinical evaluation and testing.
EMS personnel who are close contacts to a household confirmed case (i.e., they live with the infected person) are at highest risk for infection. For this reason, stricter return to work rules apply. The following are recommendations for unvaccinated personnel who are close contacts to a household confirmed case when provider agencies are experiencing staffing shortages:
These personnel must observe strict infection control procedures including source control at all times (facemask or respirator required) while working. They must continue regular daily symptom monitoring and if symptoms occur within 14 days of the exposure, they must be immediately excluded from work and told to isolate at home pending clinical evaluation and testing.
Personnel who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 should be excluded from work until they meet all return to work criteria (as outlined above in EMS Personnel with Confirmed Covid-19 Return-To-Work Protocol). If extreme shortages continue despite all other mitigation strategies, facilities may consider following CDC crisis capacity strategies to mitigate severe staffing shortages. See CDC Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages.
Report EMS personnel testing positive to COVID-19 to
or call at 213-240-7941 during regular business hours.