COVID-19 ETS Update: Newly Revised Definition of “Close Contact”



October 19, 2022

In our continual monitoring of the updates to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), employers should be aware of the revised definition of “close contact” as it applies to employer’s guidelines regarding isolation and quarantine for workers infected or exposed to COVID-19.  In our June article, we reported on the then-updated definition of “close contact” which was revised from the customary “six foot” distance to the new guideline of “sharing the same airspace.”  Questions from various businesses ensued, notably grocery stores, warehouses and other places of employment with large spaces where employees shared airspace but were spread out over a vast area.

Fast forward to this past week where it appears that the input of these businesses had not gone unnoticed.  An order from the state public health officer on October 13, 2022, re-revised the definition of “close contact”, which, as a health order then is automatically applicable to the ETS.  The definition now takes into account the size of the employer’s indoor space as follows:

  1. In indoor spaces 400,000 or fewer cubic feet per floor (such as home, clinic waiting room, airplane), a close contact is defined as sharing the same indoor airspace for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three separate 5-minute exposures) during an infected person’s infectious period.
  2. In large indoor spaces greater than 400,000 cubic feet per floor (such as open-floor-plan offices, warehouses, large retail stores, manufacturing, or food processing facilities), a close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of the infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the infected person’s infectious period.
  3. Spaces that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls (e.g., offices, suites, rooms, waiting areas, bathrooms, or break or eating areas that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls) are considered distinct indoor airspaces.
Thus, for indoor spaces of 400,000 cubic feet or fewer, a close contact is someone who shares the same indoor airspace with a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period. For indoor airspaces of more than 400,000 cubic feet, a close contact is someone who is within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period.

So how does this updated definition affect you as an employer? The above definitions should be carefully reviewed and applied to your workplace to determine impacts on masking, distancing, testing and quarantining procedures.  As always, we will continue to monitor and update our readers on any changes to the ETS.  In the meantime, please contact McKague Rosasco LLP with any questions you may have about how all of this specifically applies to your business.
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