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Employers are required to investigate and respond to any COVID-19 cases in the workplace. The following DPH guidelines are intended to support employers responding to COVID-19 cases identified in non-healthcare settings. For a summary of best practices to enhance safety in workplaces see LAC DPH Best Practices to Prevent COVID-19: Guidance for Businesses and Employers.

Employers should refer to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations for COVID-19 workplace requirements.

Summary of Recent Changes

Significant changes include the following:

Reporting COVID-19 Cases

The County Health Officer Order requires employers to report any cluster of worksite COVID-19 cases within 24 hours. A cluster is when three (3) or more linked cases of COVID-19 among an exposed group of workers (employees, assigned or contracted workers, or volunteers) are known or reported at the worksite within a 7-day period. For large workplaces with more than 100 on-site workers, employers must also report when 5% of the workers are COVID-19 cases within a 7-day period, even if they are unlinked.

Report to LAC DPH online.

Once LAC DPH receives a cluster report, we will initiate a response to determine the risk of worksite transmission based on number of cases, their work location and duties, how/if the cases interacted with each other and if they share a household or carpool with each other.

If the cluster meets worksite outbreak criteria, a public health case manager will be assigned to help guide the worksite response which includes providing infection control recommendations, workplace exclusion guidance, technical support, and site-specific COVID-19 prevention and control measures.

For assistance with reporting, please review our reporting resources:

For additional assistance with reporting, contact communityoutbreak@ph.lacounty.gov or call 1-888-397-3993.


A COVID-19 case is a person who:

  1. has a positive viral test (i.e., a PCR or antigen test, including self-administered and self-read tests) for COVID-19 and/or
  2. has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed healthcare provider.

    Infectious period:
    • For symptomatic confirmed cases: a person is considered infectious starting 2 days before their symptoms began (symptom onset date is Day 0) until their isolation ends (i.e., through Days 6-10 after symptoms first appeared AND 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and symptoms have improved).
    • For asymptomatic confirmed cases: a person is considered infectious from 2 days before their positive viral test was taken (test collection date is Day 0) until their isolation ends (i.e., through Day 5).

Who is considered a close contact in the workplace varies based on the size of the shared indoor space:

  • In indoor spaces 400,000 or fewer cubic feet per floor (such as home, clinic waiting room, airplane, etc.), a close contact is defined as someone sharing the same indoor airspace for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period while the case was infectious.
  • In large indoor spaces greater than 400,000 cubic feet per floor (such as open-floor-plan offices, warehouses, large retail stores, manufacturing, or food processing facilities), a close contact is defined as someone being within 6 feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period while the case was infectious.

    Note: An example of a “cumulative total of 15 minutes or more” is being in the shared airspace/within 6 feet of the infected person for 5-minutes at least 3 different times in 24 hours.

Spaces that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls (e.g., offices, suites, rooms, waiting areas, bathrooms, or break or eating areas that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls) must be considered distinct indoor airspaces. See, CDPH - Close Contact Q&A.

This is regardless of use of face masks by the case or contact. Exception: Cal/OSHA states that employees are not a close contact if they wore a respirator required by the employer and used in compliance with section 5144, whenever they were sharing the same airspace of the COVID-19 case while they were infectious.

Recently recovered from COVID-19 is a person who had a positive viral COVID-19 test within the past 30 days who is no longer considered infectious (i.e., their isolation period is over). 

If they had symptoms with their most recent infection, the 30 days begins at the onset of the initial COVID-19 symptoms. If they never had symptoms, then the 30 days starts at the date of collection of the first positive viral COVID-19 test.

Note: Cal/OSHA Prevention regulations refers to these workers as a “returned case” and updated definition is aligned with above.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea, unless a licensed health care professional determines the person's symptoms were caused by a known condition other than COVID-19.

In accordance with Cal/OSHA, a COVID-19 test means a test for SARS-CoV-2 that is:

  1. Cleared, approved, or authorized, including in an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to detect current infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (e.g., a viral test); and
  2. Administered in accordance with the authorized instructions.

Over-the-counter (OTC) self-tests: To comply with the Cal/OSHA testing requirements, an OTC COVID-19 test may be both self-administered and self-read if verification of the results, such as a time and date stamped photograph of the result or an OTC test that uses digital reporting with time and date stamped results, is provided.

Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace

Employers should have procedures in place for seeking information from employees related to COVID-19 cases and close contacts in the workplace. This includes collecting and keeping records of all COVID-19 cases: the employee's name, contact information, their date of symptom onset, COVID-19 testing dates and results, last date present at workplace and their workplace locations and duties. This information must be provided to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA, immediately upon request.

Once a COVID-19 case is identified at the workplace, the employer must:

  • Immediately exclude the case from the workplace until they meet all return to work criteria (see Exclusion Requirements and Return to Work below).
  • Determine who may have been a close contact to the case at the workplace. This includes assessing the case’s activities and workplace locations while they were infectious.
  • Inform all close contacts and their authorized representatives in the workplace of close contact within 1 business day in a manner that does not reveal the case’s personal information. Provide instructions regarding the recommendations to mask, test, and monitor their health (see Table 2).
  • Notify everyone that was on the premises at the same worksite as the infectious case of their potential exposure. Direct them to instructions for contacts available in multiple languages at ph.lacounty.gov/covidcontacts. There are two options for this notification:
    • Prominently display a notification of potential exposure within one business day. The notification must be in a form readily understandable to all employees. The notice must remain posted for 15 calendar days.
    • Provide a written notice within one business day to all employees, independent contractors and the employers of subcontracted employees of potential exposure in a manner normally used to communicate employment-related information.
  • Identify and correct COVID-19 hazards. See Cal/OSHA FAQs for steps to reduce future workplace exposures to COVID-19.
  • Report any cluster of worksite cases within 24 hours. Report online or by phone: 1-888-397-3993. See Reporting COVID-19 Cases for more information.
Exclusion Requirements and Return to Work

The following exclusion and return to work requirements are for employees in non-healthcare settings. For printable versions of these tables, click here.

For healthcare workers please refer to COVID-19 Infection Prevention Guidance for Healthcare Personnel.

Table 1: Exclusion and Return to Work Requirements for Employees with COVID-19 (Isolation)
Persons with COVID-19 (Isolation) Requirements
Everyone identified as a COVID-19 case must be excluded from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status, previous infection, or lack of symptoms.
Employee must be excluded from the workplace for at least 5 days after the start of symptoms or after date of first positive test if no symptoms.

Isolation can end and employee may return to the workplace after Day 5* if both of the following criteria are met:

  1. The employee has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medication, AND
  2. Other symptoms are not present, or symptoms are mild and improving.

If they do have a fever, isolation must continue, and the employee may not return to work until 24 hours after the fever resolves.

If an employee’s symptoms other than fever are not improving, they may not return to the workplace until their symptoms are resolving or until after Day 10.

Employee must± wear a well-fitting mask around others through Day 10.

Employers must provide the masks at no expense to the employee and ensure that they are worn. See Cal/OSHA standards 3205(f)(1). Note: Upon employee request, Employers must provide NIOSH-approved respirators (e.g., N95 masks) to all employees who are working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person. See Cal/OSHA FAQs for additional details.

Consider sharing with workers the LAC DPH flyer Protect Yourself From COVID-19 in the Workplace: Know Which Masks Provide the Best Protection.

±See Cal/OSHA standards 3205(f)(2) for masking exceptions. LAC DPH recommends that workers, permitted by Cal/OSHA regulations to temporarily remove their mask to conduct specific tasks that cannot feasibly be performed while masked (such as professional performers), have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to performing those tasks. The test should be conducted on the same day of, and prior to, unmasking for the work. For workers continuing to test positive, LAC DPH recommends delaying unmasked tasks until they test negative or after Day 11.

Employee should follow the full isolation instructions for people with COVID-19 at ph.lacounty.gov/covidisolation.


*To count the days:

  • For symptomatic employees: Day 0 is the first day of symptoms. Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms developed.
  • For employees without symptoms: Day 0 is the day the first positive test was collected. Day 1 is the first full day after the positive test was collected.


Table 2. Employees that are Close Contacts [Non-Outbreak Setting1]
Persons with Close Contact Exposure to Someone with COVID-19 Recommended Actions
These actions apply to all asymptomatic employees that are identified as workplace close contacts, regardless of vaccination status



Employee should wear a well-fitting mask around others indoors for a total of 10 days* after their last close contact.

Employers should provide the masks at no expense to the employee. Note: Upon employee request, Employers must provide NIOSH-approved respirators (e.g., N95 masks) to all employees who are working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person. See Cal/OSHA FAQs for additional details.

Consider sharing with workers the LAC DPH flyer Protect Yourself From COVID-19 in the Workplace: Know Which Masks Provide the Best Protection.

Employee should test within 3-5 days* after their last close contact with the case unless they have recently recovered from COVID-19.

  • If they test positive, they must be excluded from the workplace and follow Table 1.

Employee should monitor their health for 10 days*

If symptoms develop, exclude the employee from the workplace pending COVID-19 test results.

  • If they test positive or their doctor diagnoses them with COVID-19, they must be excluded from the workplace and follow Table 1.
  • If the employee tests negative and returns to work, the employee should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others indoors for 10 days following the close contact. Note: if symptoms persist, CDPH recommends considering continuing self-isolation and retesting in 1-2 days if testing negative with an antigen test, particularly if tested during the first 1-2 days of symptoms.
  • For symptomatic employees who have tested positive within the previous 90 days, an antigen test is recommended.


*Day 1 is the first full day after their last exposure

1 These recommendations are for non-outbreak settings only. During outbreaks, additional requirements will be applicable and guided by public health investigation.


Cal/OSHA states that employers must offer testing at no cost to employees during paid time:

  • To employees who had a close contact at work, with an exception for symptom-free employees who recently recovered from COVID-19 (returned cases);
  • During an outbreak, to all employees within an exposed group, at least once or twice per week depending on the magnitude of the outbreak, except for employees who were not at work during the relevant period and symptom-free employees who recently recovered from COVID-19 (returned cases); and
  • When following CDPH and local Health Department Isolation and Quarantine Guidance to keep employees working or return them sooner, if tested.

Employers must provide testing in a manner that ensures employee confidentiality.

Testing Resources

  • Employers must inform all employees on how they can obtain COVID-19 testing. This could be through the employer, local health department, the federal government, a health plan or at a community testing site.
  • Cal/OSHA Test FAQs
  • LAC DPH COVID-19-How to Get a Test
Additional Information



See the LAC DPH COVID-19 website for additional resources related to COVID-19.

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Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.

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