September 27, 2022

Volume XII, Number 270

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September 26, 2022

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CDC Shifts Approach and Loosens COVID-19 Quarantine Recommendations, including for Most Workplaces

On August 11, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) once again revised its public health recommendations regarding COVID-19 prevention measures in general community settings, including non-healthcare workplaces.  In doing so, the CDC acknowledged that “COVID-19 is here to stay,” and seemed to shift its focus from viral containment to lessening the risk of severe illness and death associated with the virus.  Chief among these changes is the CDC’s removal of its quarantine recommendation – individuals are no longer advised that they should quarantine following close contact exposure to COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, where they do not experience symptoms or test positive.

The CDC’s revised COVID-19 prevention recommendations emphasize the following:

  • Instead of quarantining, individuals exposed to COVID-19 should wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day 5.

  • The isolation-related recommendations for individuals who test positive or have COVID-19 symptoms largely remain the same: (i) regardless of vaccination status, individuals should isolate from others when they test positive (for at least 5 days based upon individual risk category) and should wear a high-quality mask for at least 10 days; and (ii) if an individual has symptoms, they should get tested and isolate while they await their test results – if results are negative, isolation can end). 

  • The CDC made clear that individuals who are immunocompromised or had a moderate or severe COVID-19 illness (evidenced by difficulty breathing or hospitalization) should isolate for 10 days or potentially longer based upon advice from healthcare providers.

  • The CDC also clarified that after an individual ends isolation, if COVID-19 symptoms worsen or reappear, the individual should restart the isolation period.

  • Screening performed via testing of asymptomatic people without known exposures will no longer be recommended in most community settings, including non-healthcare workplaces.

  • Separate recommendations continue to apply to healthcare professionals. 

Impact on Employers & Workplaces

Employers should consider the effect the CDC’s revised recommendations may have on several fronts:

  • Most immediately, based upon the CDC’s revised recommendations, employers should consider whether to revisit the quarantine and isolation policies that they have put into place (and revised, and revised anew) throughout the pandemic.  Updated policies may wish to remove quarantine periods for workers with close contact exposure but no symptoms.  Employers may still require individuals with exposure concerns to test for COVID-19. 

  • As we covered last month, the EEOC recently revised its own pandemic-related guidance to emphasize that employers administering viral testing as a mandatory screening measure should show that such testing is job related and consistent with business necessity.  Given the CDC’s declaration that viral screening of asymptomatic people without known exposure is no longer recommended, employers should continue to carefully analyze whether administering wide-scale, indiscriminate testing should be a condition for workplace entry.

  • In the coming weeks, state and local health departments may adopt the revised CDC recommendations.  As a result, employers in states with COVID-19-related leave laws – including New York’s COVID-19 Quarantine Leave Law – may see the requirements around leave benefits shift as well. For instance, where an order of quarantine is no longer applicable, New York employees without the ability to telework may have less access to COVID-19 Quarantine Leave than they did previously.  We will await potential updated guidance from the NYSDOL and other states’ agencies on this point.

  • Some states and local jurisdictions, such as California with its Cal/OSHA COVID-19 standards, may continue to have stricter requirements that trump any evolving public health recommendations/guidance. Employers should remain aware of any shifting requirements regarding quarantine, isolation, worker removal, testing, and vaccination based upon state and local requirements. 

©1994-2022 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 227
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About this Author

Corbin Carter Employment Attorney Mintz Law Firm
Associate

Corbin counsels clients and litigates all types of employment disputes before federal and state courts. He has experience handling all stages of the litigation process and resolving disputes through mediations and settlements. His practice also encompasses negotiating and drafting employment and separation agreements; advising clients on compliance with federal, state, and local employment laws; and conducting internal investigations.

Prior to joining Mintz, Corbin was an assistant corporation counsel within the Labor and Employment Law Division of the New York City Law Department....

212.692.6244
Michael S. Arnold, Mintz Levin Law Firm, Labor Law Attorney
Member / Chair, Employment, Labor & Benefits Practice

Michael Arnold is Chair of the firm's Employment, Labor & Benefits Practice.  He is an employment lawyer who deftly handles a wide array of matters. His capabilities include counseling on everyday HR life cycle issues, defending management and senior executives in connection with employment-related proceedings, and assisting companies navigate the complex employment issues that arise in transactions.  Michael’s clients appreciate his strong emphasis on providing not just legal advice, but also practical advice, that aligns with organizational and HR strategies while...

212-692-6866
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