The Symptom-Based Strategy requires the person to stay home until it has been at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms and 3 days since recovery from symptoms.
– This guidance aligns with Fresno County’s employee health screening requirements, and is the best approach when an actual COVID-19 test will not be administered or when two tests (as described below) cannot be received in a timely manner.
The Test-Based Strategy requires the person to be away from work until there is a resolution of fever without the use of medication, improvement of respiratory symptoms, and two negative COVID tests taken at least 24 hours apart.
– This method may be best when an employee’s symptoms are lingering but are not believed to be COVID-19 or when timely testing is available.
COVID-Positive Test Without Symptoms The employee should stay away from work until at least 10 days have passed since the date of the positive COVID-19 test, if he/she does not develop any symptoms, or after two negative COVID tests taken at least 24 hours apart.
Direct Exposure to a COVID-19 Patient If your employee reports having been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, he/she should stay away from work for 14 days from the date of exposure to monitor of symptoms. If symptoms develop, follow the strategies described above.
– Note that the Fresno County Department of Public Health defines “direct contact” as spending 15 minutes or more time within 6 feet or less while unmasked. If your employee reports incidental contact, he/she is not required to self-quarantine, but should strictly adhere to distancing and masking protocols.
Living in the Same Household with a COVID-19 Patient This scenario is potentially the longest, and trickiest, one to navigate. According to the CDC’s guidance for caregivers, the person should continue to self-quarantine until 14 days from when the infected person has met the criteria to end isolation, using symptom-based strategy or test-based strategy above. Even if your employee is not providing care, they are likely using the same restrooms or kitchen and air conditioning is circulating through the home, resulting in continual risk for exposure.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Other Benefits
An employee who must self-quarantine due to COVID-19 symtpoms, testing, or exposure is eligible for up to two weeks of emergency paid sick leave. If he/she must stay away from work longer, State Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave can provide partial income replacement. The employee may also use existing company sick leave or vacation/PTO benefits.
FMLA/CFRA Designation for Employers of 50+
Self-quarantine due to symptoms is not a qualifying event for FMLA/CFRA if there is no need for medical care. A regimen of treatment that can be initiated without a doctor visit, such as over-the-counter medications, is not considered a serious health condition. Covered employers should designate an eligible employee’s time off as using FMLA/CFRA leave entitlements when:
– There is a positive COVID-19 test and the person must stay off work for at least three days.
– The employee is required to care for a COVID-infected parent, child, or spouse.
We understand how complicated and confusing these decisions can be, and you’re not in this alone! Contact one of our certified Consultants to discuss the specific scenarios being reported by your employees.
Governor Newsom Orders Most California Restaurants to Close Indoor Dining For Three Weeks
On July 1, 2020, Governor Newsom held a press conference to announce the return of restrictions for restaurants, movie theaters, and other indoor entertainment venues due to rising Coronavirus cases in 19 California counties. These businesses must stop indoor dining service immediately, but take-out and outdoor dining/activities are permitted. Bars, breweries, and pubs must close all indoor and outdoor operations.
Affected counties include Fresno, Merced, Kern, Tulare, Sacramento, and Los Angeles, among others. Restrictions will remain in place for three weeks.
The governor indicated that a “strike team” of government agencies would be deployed to address businesses that do not comply with the state order. Alcoholic Beverage Control, CalOSHA, the Department of Business Oversight, and the Department of Consumer Affairs are among those who could use regulatory authority if needed.
Protect All Employees From Heat Illness
The Central Valley in California is facing triple-digit heat forecasts all week, and it’s heating up statewide. This comes at a time when many businesses, in response to COVID-19, have added outdoor elements to the way that they provide their services. Of course, we can’t forget Cal/OSHA – in an effort to raise awareness about state heat standards, penalties for violations have been intentionally inflated to thousands of dollars per violation.
The state heat illness prevention standard applies to all outdoor workers. That includes not just those in agriculture, construction, or landscaping, but increasingly employees servicing your local restaurant drive-thru or outside (socially-distanced) seating area, your security personnel, or employees making deliveries.
If you have employees that work outdoors, you have a responsibility to create a heat illness prevention plan with provisions related to training employees and providing them with water, shade, and rest. Some of that may be complicated by pandemic conditions. For example:
Tents for shade that once accommodated an entire team may not be sufficient now that employees need to be socially distanced from one another, meaning that employers will need to provide more shade than usual.
Masks worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – and now required by Governor Newsom’s 6/18/2020 executive order – make it difficult to breath and harder to cool off, meaning that additional rest breaks may be necessary.
If you have employees who work outdoors, we advise you take the following steps to protect employees from heat illness:
Plan– Develop and implement a written heat illness prevention plan. This plan should be customized to your circumstances, and should include emergency response procedures. Sierra HR Partners can assist you with this.
Train – Train employees, including management employees, who work in high-heat conditions. Training must cover a number of heat-illness-related topics, including heat illness risk factors, acclimatization, employer safety procedures, and measures to prevent heat illness.
Provide Water – Provide water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool, and free of charge, and frequently encourage employees to drink sufficient amounts. Ensure that water is located as close as practicable to where employees are working. If it’s not plumbed, employers must provide enough for each employee to drink at least 1 quart per hour.
Provide Shade and Rest – Provide shade upon request, and at minimum when temperatures exceed 80 degrees, while frequently encouraging employees to take a cool-down rest when needed. Employees should take cool-down rests before feeling sick.
If you would like help developing a heat illness prevention plan, contact Sierra HR Partners today.
Governor Newsom Issues Statewide Order Compelling Face Masks
On June 18, 2020, Governor Newsom issued a sweeping order requiring all Californians to wear masks. The order requires masks in commercial and public areas and at work. According to the order, masks must be worn in the following situations:
(1) Inside of, or inline to enter, any indoor public space;
(2) obtaining healthcare services, including at hospitals, pharmacies, an office visit, clinic or blood bank;
(3) waiting for or riding public transportation, in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle;
(4) Working when:
• interacting in-person with a member of the public, • working in a space visited by the public, • working where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution, • walking in common areas including halls, stairways, elevators and parking facilities, and • any enclosed area where other people are present; • interacting in-person with a member of the public, • working in a space visited by the public, • working where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution, • walking in common areas including halls, stairways, elevators and parking facilities, and • any enclosed area where other people are present;
(5) driving or operating public transportation, taxi, car service or ride-sharing vehicle when passengers present; and
(6) in outdoor public spaces when 6 feet of social distancing is not feasible.
There are some exceptions such as children under two years of age, persons with medical conditions preventing the wearing of a covering, persons who are hearing-impaired, persons seated at a restaurant provided they maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and persons engaged in outdoor work or recreation.
June 2020: Workers’ Compensation Coverage for COVID-19 Infections
On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order establishing a presumed eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits for employees who contract COVID-19 at work. Prior to this pandemic, having an infectious illness such as the flu would not entitle employees to workers’ comp. coverage because it is nearly impossible to confirm where a person contracted the illness.
Based on the governor’s order, an employee would receive workers’ comp. benefits for medical treatment if:
The employee worked outside of their home at the direction of the employer between March 19, 2020 and July 5, 2020, and
He/she is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of working at the employer’s place of business.
Reporting a COVID-19 Claim
If an employee informs you of a COVID-19 positive test or diagnosis by a qualified physician, you should respond in the same manner as with a workplace injury. Provide the employee with a DWC-1 form within one working day of being informed of the illness. Report the claim to your workers’ compensation carrier right away. You do not need to make a report of possible exposure or suspected infection. The above steps are necessary only if the employee is confirmed to have COVID-19.
If you have employees who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 19 and May 6 (when the Executive Order was signed), contact your workers’ compensation carrier for guidance on how to proceed with these claims.
According to the Executive Order, employers have the ability to dispute COVID-19 claims. Your workers’ compensation carrier will investigate the circumstances involved. This could include evidence of your company’s safety policies such as required social distancing, facial coverings, and hygiene practices for all staff. Based on available facts, the claim may be accepted or denied.