This article was written by BenitoLink reporter intern Olivia Madera.
The Hollister City Council unanimously approved the adoption of a COVID-19 prevention program for city employees at its Dec. 21 meeting.
On Nov. 19, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) board adopted an immediate regulation that all employers must implement a COVID-19 Prevention Program. The order took effect on Nov. 30 and allows Cal/OSHA to impose fines if businesses are not in compliance.
According to the city’s human resources department—which introduced the item—the program was drafted by attorneys at Leibert Cassidy Whitmore and examined by staff to make sure it complied with state regulations.
The program requires symptomatic individuals to be tested within 48 hours since becoming contagious, which can be two days prior to showing symptoms. Anyone who has been exposed or around an infected person will be notified by San Benito County Public Health Services and the city human resources department.
For asymptomatic cases, an exposed individual is required to go into a two-week quarantine. Those required to quarantine can work from home if they have the right equipment to do so, and if not, emergency paid sick leave will be given under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Individuals are required to finish their two-week quarantine, but if they are still symptomatic then they cannot come back to work. Even if a symptomatic employee gets a negative test, they are still required to stay home. This requirement helps protect other employees from exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said it doesn’t require a negative test for an employee to return to work. The CDC recently adopted reduced quarantine periods, but California has not adopted them.
City employee Jamilla Saqqa spoke during public comment and said “I would appreciate the amendment as well as the requirement of a negative test in order to return back to work. I would really appreciate having that safeguard of knowing that you and other employees are protected from any COVID-19 exposure.”
Another public speaker, Elia Salinas, agreed with Saqqa that “employees should be tested even if asymptomatic. It is the duty of the city to make sure their employees and businesses are safe and protected.”
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