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New COVID Workplace Requirements Kick In

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By Jorge Casuso

March 24, 2023 -- While Los Angeles County remained in the Low COVID-19 Community Level for the 10th consecutive week, workplaces -- including schools -- must adhere to new California OSHA requirements, Health officials said Friday.

Reflecting changes in federal and state guidance, all employers must "ensure employees that test positive are not at the worksite for at least five days" and "must wear a mask around others for a total of 10 days after testing positive."

Workers can return only "if they have not had a fever for a 24-hour period without using fever-reducing medication and other symptoms are resolved or improving."

Employers also must "identify and notify employees who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 during the virus’s infectious period" and "make testing available to all employees at no cost who had close contact with an infected person at the workplace."

In addition, they must "ensure all employees who had close contact with a known COVID-19 case, and remain at work, take a COVID-19 test within 3 to 5 days after the close contact in the event of an outbreak."

All worksites are required to report to the LA County Department of Public Health clusters of three or more cases over 14 days, Health officials said.

"This allows Public Health to assist worksites to reduce additional transmission that can lead to significant disruptions and possible severe illness," officials said.

The workplace requirements come amid a drop in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, while virus-related deaths remained stable in the County of more than 10 million.

The 7-day average case count for COVID-19 dropped from 726 cases last week to 593 this week, while COVID-19 positive hospital admissions dropped from 76 to 68. Virus-related deaths remained stable at about 12 deaths reported per day.

Beginning in April, Public Health will change to weekly reporting of COVID-19 data from every weekday to once per week on Thursdays, officials announced.

Over the past seven days, confirmed cases in Santa Monica, which has a population of some 93,000, remained stable at 44, a dip of one case from the previous seven days.

There have been two virus-related deaths reported in Santa Monica in each of the past two weeks, the most since five deaths were reported in the final two weeks of last year.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) on Friday released guidelines to align with the County that include basing the use of face masks "on individual preference" that make them "no longer required, but strongly recommended."

Following the County's lead, the District also "strongly recommends, but is not requiring, that a person who is a close contact to a person with a confirmed case of Covid-19 wears a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days."

"SMMUSD schools and offices will be providing free at-home Covid-19 test kits prior to spring break," said Interim Superintendent Mark Kelly.

"We ask that students and staff test prior to return on April 17, either that morning or the evening before," Kelly wrote in a letter to students, teachers and staff.

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