California COVID-19 ETS Update

By Kris Janisch
Published Jan. 24, 2022

California COVID-19 ETS Update

Employers with locations in California should update their COVID-19 prevention programs to align with the updated ETS.

The California COVID-19 ETS update is in effect.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court blocking the federal vaccine mandate, California is forging ahead with its own emergency temporary standard (ETS), recently updating the guidelines.

The changes went into effect Jan. 14, 2022, and are expected to continue through April 14, 2022.

California ETS

Applying to nearly every employer in California, the ETS has been in effect since late-November 2020. Generally, it requires employer to establish a COVID-19 prevention program, which includes:

  • Documenting employee vaccination status and checking proof of vaccination
  • Providing masks
  • Contact tracing
  • Notifying public health departments about outbreaks
  • Notifying employees of exposure and close contacts
  • Requirements to offer COVID-19 testing after potential exposures
  • Requirements for responding to COVID-19 cases and outbreaks
  • Isolation and exclusion pay requirements

Updated California ETS

The updated California ETS has several items for employers to note.


First among the changes, a “COVID-19 test” does not include those taken and read by an employee at home. The employer or a telehealth professional must observe the test being taken.


Employers are now required to make COVID-19 testing available at no cost and during paid time to employees who were fully vaccinated before a “close contact” with a COVID-19 case occurred, even if they are asymptomatic.

Also, employers must now make weekly testing during outbreaks (three or more employees in an exposed group) or twice-weekly testing during major outbreaks (20 or more employees) available to asymptomatic fully vaccinated employees in the exposed group.

Definition of “Fully Vaccinated”

The definition of “fully vaccinated” now includes the minimum amount of time workers need to wait between the first and second dose of a two-dose vaccine.

Definition of “Face Covering

The definition of “face covering” was updated to include more specific detail on the different types of acceptable face coverings. Employees who are exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical or mental health condition, or disability and cannot wear a non-restrictive alternative must physically distance at least six feet from others and either be fully vaccinated or tested at least weekly.

Quarantine Guidelines

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health also updated isolation and quarantine guidelines. A chart has been made available to employers based on an employee’s vaccination status, exposure, etc.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing requirements continue to be eliminated in the revised ETS except in certain situations:

  • During an outbreak, employers are required to evaluate whether physical distancing or barriers are necessary
  • Physical distancing must be used in a major outbreak for all employees, regardless of vaccination status except when an employer demonstrates that maintaining six feet of distance is not feasible
  • When it is not feasible to maintain six feet of distance, people must be as far apart as possible
  • If fully vaccinated employees cannot be tested after a close contact

Other Considerations

The standards do not apply to employees covered by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard, which applies to types of work at certain healthcare facilities, labs and a handful of other employers.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the California mask mandate for indoor public settings has been extended through Feb. 15, 2022.


Employers with locations in California should update their COVID-19 prevention programs to align with the updated ETS.

Plus, smaller jurisdictions in California may have other requirements of employers as the pandemic continues.

The good news is, there seems to be a reduction in caseloads of the omicron variant, and that could mean fewer extensions of COVID-related laws and regulations in the coming weeks and months.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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