State Lags Behind New CDC Guidelines for Vaccinated and Unvaccinated People

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance on social contact and when quarantining is required for vaccinated people.

California employers should pay close attention, as these changes herald potential future changes to California’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), but are not immediately effective in California.

The new CDC guidance (“Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People”) is available on the CDC website at

The guidance covers a range of situations, from small social gatherings of vaccinated individuals to larger, mixed gatherings of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

CDC Guidance

Of interest for employers, the guidance provides that:

  • “Fully vaccinated people can . . . [r]efrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.”
  • “Fully vaccinated employees of non-healthcare congregate settings and other high-density workplaces (e.g., meat and poultry processing and manufacturing plants) with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine following an exposure; however testing following an exposure and through routine workplace screening programs (if present) is still recommended.”

Not Yet for California Employers

Although these are certainly appreciated improvements that will help businesses across the country function more smoothly as vaccines become more common, they are not an immediate solution for California’s employers.

The presently applicable ETS — which continues to govern the conduct of California’s employers — does not explicitly recognize vaccinated status as reason for an exemption from its requirements.

In other words, although this CDC guidance is a step in the right direction, it does not change the rules in California unless it is incorporated into California’s ETS.

Evolving Discussion

Notably, Cal/OSHA and stakeholders (including CalChamber) discussed incorporating vaccination status into California’s ETS at last month’s advisory committee meetings. There, Cal/OSHA staff and employers acknowledged the evolution of CDC guidance toward recognizing vaccination status and allowing different treatment of vaccinated employees.

Labor advocates, however, pushed back on recognizing vaccines in the ETS.

For now, California employers will need to wait to see the draft language that Cal/OSHA is preparing and which will likely become public closer to the May Cal/OSHA Standards Board meeting. There, the Standards Board may approve new ETS text that may incorporate some of this new guidance.

But until then, California employers need to stay in compliance with the current text of the ETS, which is available here.

Staff Contact: Robert Moutrie

Robert Moutrie joined the California Chamber of Commerce in March 2019 as a policy advocate and was named a senior policy advocate starting January 1, 2024 in recognition of his efforts on behalf of members. He leads CalChamber advocacy on occupational safety, tourism, unemployment insurance and immigration. Moutrie has represented clients on matters such as consumer fraud litigation, civil rights, employment law claims, tort claims, and other business-related issues in federal and state courts. He previously served as an associate attorney at the Oakland-based firm of Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson. Moutrie earned a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. with honors from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. See full bio.