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Millions of Californians continue to risk COVID-19 infection by showing up in person at work during the pandemic.

But the state and federal governments have never required companies to share information about outbreaks with their employees — or to health authorities.

More than nine months after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the first shelter-in-place order, a new state law will require businesses — and the State Health Department — to report more COVID data.

The law requires businesses to notify employees within 24 hours if they’ve been exposed at work.

And companies have to report outbreaks — defined as more than two positive cases within two weeks — to health authorities.

The law gives more enforcement power to CalOSHA, the state’s workplace safety agency, including the ability to shut down businesses if they find workers in imminent danger.

It’s still unclear how the data will be presented to the public.

While unions backed a provision that would have required the state to disclose every workplace outbreak online, business interests — led by the California Chamber of Commerce — argued the move would only shame companies.

So, the bill was watered down. It requires the state to report workplace outbreaks — not by employer or location, but by industry. 

Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes, who introduced the new law, says she wants the state to disclose every workplace outbreak online.

For now, California’s businesses must follow new regulations set by Cal/OSHA to protect workers from getting coronavirus on the job.

Fewer new laws than usual will kick in for 2021, given that the coronavirus pandemic shortened and dominated the Legislature’s 2020 session.

See our playlist of nine noteworthy new California laws.

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Nick Roberts is a journalist and video producer based in the Bay Area. His work has been published by The New York Times, PBS Frontline, Oregon Public Broadcasting, among others. He holds a master’s...

Laurence Du Sault covers inequality and the income gap for The Mercury News as part of CalMatters' California Divide collaboration. She has reported on child welfare and police misconduct at the Investigative...