State redefines “close contact” giving businesses new guidance

California health changes “close contact” limit from six feet apart to just sharing an indoor airspace with a COVID-19 infected person

VISALIA – The California Department of Public Health has updated their recommendations regarding isolation and quarantine periods for those infected with COVID-19, raising questions about the effect this could have on businesses and employers.

As of June 8, the  California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released a statement redefining the term “close contact.” It now applies to people sharing the same indoor airspace with an infected person for 15 minutes or more within 24-hours.

An example provided by the CDPH website would be three individual five minute exposures to an infected person totaling 15 minutes. This exposure could be in a home, clinic waiting room or airplane etc. Before, “close contact” was initially defined as someone being within six feet of a COVID-19 infected person for 15 minutes or more within a 24 hour time span.

The effect this could have on businesses isn’t set in stone, but according to Visalia Chamber CEO Gail Zurek, businesses want to do everything to keep their employees and customers safe. Ever since the pandemic first struck in March 2020, she said employers are constantly looking to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.

“They are constantly looking to make sure that the regulations, both official and unofficial, do things to make sure that everyone feels safe and comfortable within their businesses,” said Zurek. 

However, the other side of this update is a general exhaustion from employers, employees and customers from the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines. Zurek said she noticed retail and fast food establishments with close proximity are asking their employees to wear masks. Aside from that, she doesn’t anticipate any additional changes in the face of this update going forward.

“I think most [employers] had made some of those ‘common sense’ approaches to [this updated regulation], and had those conversations with their employees,” she said.

According to the CDPH website, staff exposed to someone with COVID-19 should be excluded from work for at least five days after the last exposure. Residents exposed should quarantine for at least five days. If symptoms are not present after day five, work exclusion/quarantine can end with a negative COVID-19 test. Work exclusion/quarantine can also end without testing if staff/residents have no symptoms after day 10.

Also from the CDPH website, workplaces that follow the Cal/OSHA Covid-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) should consult ETS regulations for any updated requirements that apply to it. Workplaces that adhere to the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard should also consult ATD regulations for additional updated requirements that apply to it.

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