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On September 1, 2021, the California Department of Public Health updated the Guidance on Isolation and Quarantine for COVID-19 Contact Tracing to state that for workplace exposures, facilities should follow the more conservative standards. For this reason, employees with workplace exposures should continue to follow the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) Return to Work. This means that they cannot return to work for at least 10 days from when they were exposed. The Return to Work section below reflects the Cal/OSHA requirements.

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Employers are required to investigate and respond to any COVID-19 cases in the workplace as outlined by Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). As approved, the full text of these standards appears under the Title 8 sections 3205-3205.4 of the California Code of Regulations. The following are guidelines to support employers responding to COVID-19 cases identified in non-healthcare, non-residential worksites.

For guidance on preventing infections in the workplace please refer to LAC DPH Best Practices in the Workplace to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19.


A COVID-19 case is a person who:

  1. has a positive viral test for COVID-19 (i.e., a laboratory-confirmed case) and/or
  2. has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed healthcare provider.

    A COVID-19 case is considered as able to spread the virus to others (infectious):
    • if symptomatic-- from 2 days before their symptoms first started until their isolation period ends (i.e., 10 days after symptoms first appeared; and 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications; and symptoms have improved), OR
    • If symptoms never develop--from 2 days before their positive viral test was taken until 10 days after that test was taken. If symptoms do develop, follow the instructions above.

A close contact is any of the following persons who were exposed to the COVID-19 case while they were infectious:

  • Persons who were within 6 feet of the case for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* or
  • Persons who had unprotected contact with the case’s body fluids and/or secretions, for example, being coughed or sneezed on or sharing of a drink or food utensils.

*This is regardless of use of face masks of 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 within six feet of the COVID-19 case while they were infectious.

A person is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 after at least two (2) weeks have passed since:

  • They got the Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
  • They got the second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
  • They finished a series of a COVID-19 vaccine listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (for example, AstraZeneca/Oxford or Sinopharm).

Recently recovered from COVID-19 is a person who had a positive viral COVID-19 test within the past 3 months (90 days) who is no longer considered infectious (i.e. their isolation period is over). 

If they had symptoms with their most recent infection, the 90 days are from the onset of the initial COVID-19 symptoms. If they never had symptoms, then the 90 days are from the date of collection of the first positive viral COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 symptoms means 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.

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: their date of symptom onset, COVID-19 testing dates and results, last date present at workplace and their workplace close contacts.

Once a case is identified at the workplace, the employer should

  • Make sure the case follows isolation instructions and does not return to work until their isolation is completed.
  • 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 in the workplace of their exposure and provide instructions:

    Close contacts that are not fully vaccinated and who have not .

  • Close contacts that are fully vaccinated or who have
    may continue to work as long as they do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
    • They do not need to quarantine.
    • Testing is recommended for fully vaccinated close contacts. Close contacts that have recently recovered from COVID-19 should not be tested, unless symptomatic.
    • Instruct them to monitor their health for 14 days after the last contact with the case.
      • If they develop COVID-19 symptoms within the 14 days, they must be restricted from work. See Return to Work for more details.
      • Note: COVID-19 viral testing must be made available to symptomatic vaccinated close contacts at no cost, during paid time.

  • Review Best Practices in the Workplace to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 to reduce future workplace exposures to COVID-19.
  • Report a potential outbreak to LAC DPH if three (3) or more cases of COVID-19 are known or reported among employees within a 14-day period. Report online or by phone: 1-888-397-3993. See Outbreak Response for more information.
Outbreak Response

Employers are required to report any cluster of worksite COVID-19 cases. A cluster is when three (3) or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 are known or reported at the worksite within a 14-day period. Reports to LAC DPH should be made as soon as possible and no later than 48 hours after reports or knowledge of at least three cases. Report to LAC DPH online or by phone: 1-888-397-3993.

Once LAC DPH receives a cluster report, they 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 guidance and recommendations, technical support, and site-specific control measures.

Return to Work

COVID-19 cases can return to work after the required isolation period ends

Close contacts that are not fully vaccinated and who have not recently recovered from COVID-19 can return to work after 10 days have passed since the last known close contact to the COVID-19 case), as long as they never developed COVID-19 symptoms. They must continue to monitor their health for 14 days after the last contact with the case.

Close contacts that develop COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days after the last contact with the case may return to work after meeting one of the following criteria:

  • At least 10 days have passed from when their symptoms first started; and
  • Their COVID-19 symptoms have improved; and
  • They have been fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine


  • They test negative for COVID-19 using a PCR test with a specimen collected after their COVID-19 symptoms began; and
  • At least 10 days have passed since the last known close contact with the case; and
  • They have been symptom free for at least 24 hours, without using fever-reducing medicine.

Note: If the employee is either fully vaccinated or they recovered from COVID-19 within the last 90 days AND a licensed health care professional determines that their symptoms were caused by a known condition other than COVID-19, then they may return to work after they have been fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

Symptomatic employees that are not close contacts to a case:

  • If they are diagnosed with COVID-19 (i.e., they test positive or a healthcare provider diagnoses current COVID-19 infection)--they must follow isolation orders and can return to work after the required isolation period ends.
  • If they have a negative SARS-CoV-2 viral test result and/or their healthcare provider determines they do not have COVID-19, the employee may return to work after they have been fever-free (without the help of fever-reducing medicines) for at least 24 hours.
  • If an employee with symptoms of possible COVID-19 does not get tested and does not get cleared by a doctor, they should be assumed to be a case*. They can return to work when the isolation period for a person with COVID-19 ends

*If the employee is fully vaccinated and/or has recently recovered from COVID-19 and there is low COVID-19 prevalence in the community and the workplace (i.e. no outbreaks at the worksite) then COVID-19 is unlikely. They may return to work once their symptoms have improved and they have been fever-free (without the help of fever-reducing medicines) for at least 24 hours.

Staff who have completed the required isolation or quarantine period can return to work and resume usual activities. A letter from Public Health or a negative COVID-19 test is not needed for staff to return to work.

For employees who develop symptoms after COVID-19 Vaccination, see Return to Work Guidelines for Employees Who Develop Systemic Symptoms Post-Vaccination.


Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS states that employers must offer testing at no cost to employees during paid time to:

  • Symptomatic unvaccinated employees, regardless of whether there is a known exposure. This is a new requirement.
  • Unvaccinated employees after an exposure.
  • Vaccinated employees after an exposure if they develop symptoms.
  • Unvaccinated employees in an outbreak.
  • All employees in a major outbreak.
Testing Resources
  • Employers should provide employees with information about access to COVID-19 testing.
  • Employees that are workplace close contacts should have testing made available to them at no cost, during paid time by their employer (with exclusions for asymptomatic close contacts who are fully vaccinated or who were a case within the past 90 days).
  • Employees with insurance can contact their doctor to get tested at no cost to the employee.
  • Employees with no insurance or whose doctors cannot provide testing, can visit lacounty.gov/testing or call 2-1-1 for help finding a free testing site.
  • Visit LAC DPH COVID-19 Testing for general information about testing including types of tests, when, where, and how to get a test, and understanding test results.
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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