New Year, New COVID-19 Guidance For Employers…Again

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their COVID-19 quarantine/isolation guidance for the second time in ten days.

Don’t shoot the messenger!

I told you here that on December 27, 2021, the CDC shortened the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for asymptomatic people—regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not—with COVID-19 to 5 days, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around other people.

But there was no testing requirement.

Guess what? There’s still no testing requirement. The key word here is requirement.

In a January 4, 2022 update, the CDC now states that for people with COVID-19 symptoms, to leave isolation, the CDC says that if a person has access to a test and wants to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period if symptoms are resolving.

Then, if a person is still positive, keep isolating through day 10. If the test is negative, a person can end isolation and wear a mask around others for another 5 days, similar to the previous guidance.

The CDC’s assessment of contagion remains the same: people are most contagious 1-2 days prior to when they start to get symptoms and about for about 3 days afterward.

Why is there STILL no testing requirement?

You know why: so many people cannot get tests. Most drug stores sold out of at-home tests, and lines at testing sites snake around corners.

What about people just exposed to a positive COVID-19 case?

The CDC also shortened its quarantine period for people who are exposed to Covid.

Folks who are boosted should quarantine for 5 days if it has been longer than 6 months from when they were “fully” vaccinated, within the meaning of that term. They should then wear a mask for 5 days after leaving quarantine.

The unvaccinated should follow these same guidelines.

People who received a booster do not need to quarantine, but should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure, according to this CDC guidance.

For employers beleaguered by employees out for long quarantine and isolation periods the from the highly contagious omicron variant.

Employer Takeaway

I am sure we have not yet heard the last from the CDC on quarantine and isolation times as well as testing requirements. Implement the new guidance (or more stringent quarantine and isolation policies for their employees) unless state or local law requires stricter rules. If you have employment counsel on speed dial, call that person.

Revise your written policy, and communicate the change to your workforce. Your beleaguered employees need to know what to expect and what you, as an employer, expect from them. Your job is to maintain a healthy and safety workplace—even amidst ever-changing guidance.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.