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

March 24, 2022

Local Health Departments

Responding to COVID-19 Cases and Outbreaks in the Workplace

​​​​​​​​​​​​Note: This Guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.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

A Resource Guide for Local Health Departments


During the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces across California have experienced COVID-19 cases and outbreaks among workers. Local health departments play an important role in working with employers to address COVID-19 in the workplace. This resource document was created to provide local health departments (LHDs) with best practices and tools for assisting employers in their jurisdictions who have identified cases of COVID-19 at the workplace.

Under current laws and regulations, non-healthcare employers must notify the LHD when they identify three or more cases of COVID-19 among workers at the workplace within a 14-day period. Once an employer reports cases to the LHD, CDPH recommends that LHDs investigate to determine whether the cases in a workplace constitute an outbreak, according to CDPH outbreak definitions, and prioritize investigations in high risk settings described in the Case Investigation, Contact Tracing, and Outbreak Prevention Priorities. LHDs should report confirmed workplace outbreaks to CDPH, following CDPH workplace outbreak reporting guidance. As outbreak circumstances and work practices vary, LHDs may need to tailor their recommendations to meet the specific needs of the workplace.

Legal and Regulatory Requirements

This resource document is intended to provide a comprehensive set of public health best practices and strategies to help local health departments assist employers in responding to cases of COVID-19 in their workplace. In non-healthcare workplaces, employers are responsible for ensuring that their actions to protect employees comply with the legal requirements of AB 685 (Chapter 84, Statutes of 2020) (see CDPH FAQs) and the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). To avoid potential penalties, employers should be advised to consult Cal/OSHA's COVID-19 ETS regulatory language, Frequently Asked Questions, and other materials at the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards resources webpage. This resource does not restate the comprehensive requirements of the ETS.

This resource is not intended for use in managing or preventing outbreaks in healthcare, congregate living settings, or other workplaces where Cal/OSHA's Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard (Title 8, Section 5199) applies.

This LHD-specific resource is intended to supplement other CDPH guidance documents and resources. LHDs may also wish to consult CDPH's companion Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace for Employers resource, which includes additional sections on testing, contact tracing, and worker notification, and share this resource with employers in their communities.

Links to additional resources are provided at the end of this document. For further assistance with COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces, LHDs may seek consultation from CDPH by emailing

1. Local health departments should be prepared for identification of COVID-19 cases at workplaces in their jurisdiction.

  • Identify a point-of-contact in your health department to receive communications from employers about COVID-19 cases among workers.
    • Employers must report to the LHD within 48 hours when they identify three or more COVID-19 cases among workers at a workplace within a 14-day period.
    • LHDs should communicate with employers about their preferred mechanism for receiving information about COVID-19 workplace outbreaks, such as telephone, fax, email, or web portal.
      • LHDs that use CalCONNECT may wish to encourage employers to use the Shared Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT) to share information about workplace COVID-19 cases and outbreaks.
  • Share information with CDPH about COVID-19 workplace outbreaks.
    • If an LHD determines that the cases constitute an outbreak, according to the CDPH outbreak definitions, it should be reported to CDPH via the CalREDIE outbreak module, the CalCONNECT exposure event form, or their usual reporting mechanism, as described in CDPH workplace outbreak reporting guidance.

2. Local health departments should determine how information will be shared with partners.

  • For workplace outbreaks involving workers from multiple jurisdictions, LHDs should work together to develop an outbreak response and information sharing plan.
    • Typically, the LHD in the jurisdiction where the workplace is located manages the outbreak investigation and is responsible for sharing outbreak information with CDPH.
    • Form an agreement among jurisdictions about how information on new cases will be shared for the investigation.
  • Confirm the presence of contract or temporary workers in the facility and how communication and instructions will be communicated to these individuals and their employers.
  • LHDs should ensure that employers are aware of information-sharing requirements under AB 685. Employers are required to share the following information with local health departments:
    • Name, contact information, and occupation (job title) of workers with COVID-19
    • Hospitalizations and deaths of workers with COVID-19
    • Employer name and business address
    • Workplace location
    • Industry name and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code of the workplace
    • Any additional information requested by the LHD as part of their investigation. This may include information such as job descriptions, work locations, work schedules, city and county of residence, vaccination status, a roster of all workers at the worksite, and other details that will inform the LHD's investigation and follow-up actions.
  • Employers are required by AB 685 to continue notifying the LHD as additional cases of COVID-19 are identified among workers. LHDs should establish an agreement with the employer about the manner and frequency of providing this information.
  • Employers and LHDs should consult Cal/OSHA's website for requirements on reporting employee COVID-19 cases to Cal/OSHA.
  • Each workplace is unique and operates under a variety of laws that govern information and protocols to be followed. LHDs should coordinate with their own personnel departments, legal departments, and labor unions (if applicable) to appropriately adjust this general advice to a particular industry.

3. Become familiar with requirements for workplace testing, contact tracing, and worker notification, and work with employers in your jurisdiction to ensure they are complying with these requirements.

4. Determine when it is appropriate for cases and contacts of cases to return to work, and communicate these requirements to employers in your jurisdiction.

  • Employers should review the most recent Cal/OSHA requirements to determine when workers who test positive for COVID-19 or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 may return to work.
    • Work exclusion periods vary depending on an individual's symptoms, testing, and vaccination status.
  • LHDs may also choose to impose stricter return-to-work requirements than those required by Cal/OSHA.

5. Ensure that employers are taking appropriate steps to reduce ongoing transmission in the workplace, including appropriate infection control mitigation measures, in accordance with CDC and CDPH guidance and the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS.

  • LHDs should communicate with employers experiencing outbreaks regarding appropriate COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as mask and respirator use, ventilation, cleaning and disinfection, and other measures.
  • Where appropriate, LHDs may wish to conduct site visits to employers to gain additional insight into workplace-specific risk factors and appropriate mitigation measures.

Additional Resources

Additional CDPH resources:

Originally Published on June 16, 2020