In June 2022, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) updated its definition of “close contact” to refer to individuals who share the same indoor airspace, replacing the previous “six-foot rule.” This revised definition leaves employers with large facilities with more questions than answers.

On October 14, 2022, CDPH further updated the definition of “close contact” to account for the size of the indoor space.

For smaller indoor spaces of 400,000 cubic feet or less per floor (such as homes, clinic waiting rooms, and airplanes), the definition of close contact remains the same as under the June 2022 order (i.e., sharing the same indoor airspace for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or longer within 24 hours during the infected person’s infectious period).

In large indoor spaces greater than 400,000 cubic feet per floor (such as open floor plan offices, warehouses, large retail stores, and manufacturing and food processing facilities), the definition of close contact reverts to the prior six-foot rule (i.e., being within six feet of the infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or longer within 24 hours during the infected person’s infectious period.)

Notably, spaces that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls (such as offices, suites, rooms, waiting areas, bathrooms, and break or eating areas) must be considered distinct indoor airspaces.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, has updated its Frequently Asked Questions to incorporate the new “close contact” definitions.

The revised definition will likely reduce employer obligations for testing and masking in large spaces such as warehouses. That said, employers will have to carefully determine whether workspaces qualify as large indoor spaces, since the standard is not based solely on the workspace’s outer walls. Employers are advised to measure the square footage of their workspaces to determine which definition of “close contact” applies.