In their attempt to keep up with the ever-changing standards pertaining to COVID-19, Cal/OSHA has passed another new version of the ETS yesterday. Much of the current ETS remains unchanged. However, here is a brief summary of the most significant updates for businesses, when the new ETS goes into effect (likely the first or second week of May):
Face coverings are no longer required for employees who are not fully vaccinated consistent with the February 28, 2022, Executive Order. Unless:
The CDPH issues orders requiring them;
Employees who tested positive return to work before 10 days have passed since their symptoms began, or 10 days since they tested positive if they never developed symptoms; or
Employees are indoors in an exposed group during a workplace outbreak or major outbreak, or those outdoors cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
In situations where face coverings are required but employees are exempted from wearing them, they will no longer need to be kept at least six feet apart from others but still need to be tested at least weekly.
The face mask requirement that it “not let light pass through when held up to a light source” has been removed.
Cleaning and disinfection requirements are removed.
The ETS no longer distinguishes between fully-vaccinated and less-than-fully-vaccinated employees. In other words:
Employers will have to offer no-cost testing during paid work time to all symptomatic employees, and all employees with a workplace close contact, regardless of vaccination status. The only exception will be based on whether an exposed employees has recently had and recovered from COVID-19.
Provision of Respirators: Employers must offer respirators (e.g., N95s) to all employees for voluntary use, free of charge, if they ask for one.
A new term, “returned cases,” has been added, referring to employees with naturally conferred immunity, i.e. employees who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days and remain symptom free.
If such employees have had a workplace close contact, employers are not required to offer them testing and do not need to provide testing if they are part of an outbreak’s “exposed group.”
A “close contact” is still defined as being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period that overlaps with the infectious period of the COVID-19 case. That standard does not change based on CDPH guidance, only a CDPH regulation or order will supersede the ETS definition of close contact.
Changed the term “high risk exposure period” to “infectious period.” This does not create any real changes other than it may require changes to the wording of your COVID plan.
During a major outbreak, partitions will no longer be required for exposed groups working together for an extended period but who can’t maintain distance.
The definition of testing was updated and no longer limits what tests can be used to identify COVID-19 cases or otherwise need to be made available under the ETS. However, the restriction that self-administered and self-read tests require another means of independent verification of the results (e.g., a time-stamped photograph of the results) still applies to tests administered to allow an early return-to-work.
Employers are now ordered to provide unredacted personal identifying information about COVID-19 cases with the local health department, CDPH, and NIOSH immediately upon request.
This new ETS will expire on December 31, 2022. As a result, employers will still need to notify employees any time a COVID-19 case has been onsite during the infectious period, and to continue “exclusion pay” for eligible employees with workplace exposure (though such cases should be submitted to worker’s comp).