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State of California—Health and Human Services Agency
California Department of Public Health

July 12, 2023

All California employers

Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace for Employers

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Note: This Guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​​Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace

Employers have an important role to play in keeping employees safe from COVID-19. This resource document was created to help employers understand the steps they can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to respond quickly and appropriately to COVID-19 cases and outbreaks identified in the workplace.

Local health departments (LHDs) may continue to implement additional requirements that are stricter than this statewide guidance based on local circumstances, including in certain higher-risk settings or during certain situations (for example, during active outbreaks in high-risk settings).  

Legal and Regulatory Requirements

A previous statewide requirement for employers to notify LHDs of COVID-19 workplace outbreaks is no longer in effect. LHDs may, however, continue to require outbreak reporting through a local order. Employers must provide any information requested by an LHD regarding COVID-19 cases or outbreaks in the workplace, as described in the COVID-19 Workplace Outbreak Reporting Guidance.

In non-healthcare workplaces, employers are responsible for ensuring that their actions to protect employees comply with the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations (COVID-19 Prevention Regulations).

Employers should consult the regulatory language, Frequently Asked Questions, and other materials on the COVID-19 Prevention regulations webpage. This resource guide is not intended to restate the comprehensive requirements of the Cal/OSHA regulations.

This resource guide is also not intended for use in managing or preventing outbreaks in healthcare, correctional, shelter, or other workplace settings where Cal/OSHA's Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard (Title 8, Section 5199) applies. ​

Key Components of Workplace Outbreak Management

1. Prepare to identify and manage COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

  • ​Identify LHD contact information and any applicable reporting requirements for the LHD in the jurisdiction where the workplace is located. ​​
  • ​Designate a workplace disease control and prevention coordinator to help implement COVID-19 infection prevention procedures and to manage COVID-19 related issues among employees.
  • Develop a written workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) for COVID-19 prevention procedures consistent with the requirements of the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Regulations. Cal/OSHA has a Model COVID-19 Prevention Procedures Template available on the  COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations webpage.
  • ​Ask employees to report possible COVID-19 workplace hazards to the employer, without fear of retaliation.
  • Encourage employees to stay home and report to the employer if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Encourage all employees to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. Vaccination is the single most effective strategy for protecting employees from COVID-19.

2. Share information with the LHD and other stakeholders.

  • The LHD in the jurisdiction where the workplace is located may have specific outbreak reporting requirements. Employers must follow these requirements and provide any information requested by the LHD. In the absence of specific outbreak reporting requirements, employers are encouraged to contact the LHD for guidance on cases and outbreaks, as needed.
  • If the facility uses contract or temporary employees, designate an individual to communicate information and instructions on the outbreak to employees and their employers.
  • Consult Cal/OSHA's Recording and Reporting Requirements for COVID-19 Cases.​

3. Identify additional employee cases and close contacts. 

  • When an employee is identified with COVID-19, the employer should determine if the employee was present in the workplace during their infectious period and identify any close contacts. Employers should consult the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Regulations and the State Public Health Officer Order COVID-19 Disease Control & Prevention for definitions of infectious period and close contact.
    • To evaluate when the COVID positive individual was present in the workplace and help identify additional close contacts, employers may choose to interview employees with COVID-19 by phone.  Employment records may also be consulted to obtain this information.
    • Close contacts should follow the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine, which includes the following rec​ommendations: wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days after exposure; test within 3-5 days after last exposure; stay home and test again if symptoms develop.
  • Once a workplace outbreak is identified, testing potentially exposed employees should be one of the first strategies considered by employers to identify additional cases.
    • LHDs can be consulted to discuss testing strategies and may also be able to help facilitate testing options, if needed.
    • Consult the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Regulations on testing requirement for exposed employees and specific return-to-work criteria.
    • ​Be aware that testing reflects an individual's health status at a single point in time only. Even if an employee tests negative, they may still develop COVID-19 infection from a recent or subsequent exposure. Repeat testing if symptoms develop is recommended in the CDPH Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine. ​

4. Notify and provide instruction to employees.

5. Determine when it is appropriate for employees with COVID-19 to return to work.

  • Employers should review the most recent Cal/OSHA requirements and CDPH Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine to determine when employees who test positive for COVID-19 may return to work.
    • Work exclusion periods vary depending on an individual's symptoms and test results.​
  • LHDs may impose additional return-to-work requirements; employers should consult with the LHD in the jurisdiction where the workplace is located regarding these requirements.​

6. Take steps to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Additional CDPH R​​esources

Additional Cal/OSHA Resources

Originally Published on June 16, 2020