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Cal/OSHA Updates the “Outbreak” Definition and Masking Guidance

11 Jul

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Update applicable to:

All employers operating in California

What happened?

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has updated its guidance on COVID-19 outbreaks in non-healthcare settings.

What are the details?

The new definition affects the outbreak provisions under Cal/OSHA’s non-emergency COVID-19 standard reducing the counting timeframe from 14 to 7 days, meaning that an outbreak is now defined as at least three COVID-19 cases within an exposed group during a 7-day period. This aligns with changes made by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) for schools and health care settings.

Additionally, the CDPH has released a new resource called “Get The Most Out of Masking,” which provides guidance on masks, respirators, when to wear masks, and other related information. The CDPH still recommends the use of face masks as a mitigating tool to limit the spread of COVID-19. Employers should stay updated on CDPH guidance and Cal/OSHA’s FAQs for the latest information.

The CDPH made this change based on the shortened disease incubation period with recent variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While this update makes it easier for employers to avoid outbreak status, they still need to consider a 14-day period to exit outbreak status. The major outbreak provisions triggered by 20 or more employee COVID-19 cases within a 30-day period remain unchanged.

For more information, please see the links below:

Get The Most Out of Masking

CDPH Guidance

COVID-19 public health order and guidance

Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine of the General Public

Public Health Order Questions and Answers: COVID-19 Disease Control and Prevention

Existing Outbreak Definition

Cal/OSHA Updated FAQs

Law Firm Summary

What do employers need to do?

Employers will now need to implement stricter outbreak protocols only if the new threshold is met. Employers in outbreak status must continue to provide testing, implement preventive measures, and ensure employee compliance with testing and exclusion requirements.

Need help understanding how changes to employment laws will affect your business?

Learn more about how Vensure's California PEO services can help you navigate complex employment laws and keep your business compliant.


This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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