In June, with much fanfare, California announced it was reopening and lifting many of the COVID-19 restrictions that had been in place through state executive and health department orders. However, as there have been surges of COVID-19 across the state, many state and local orders requiring COVID-19 controls have changed in response. Mask mandates and vaccination requirements for certain workers, in particular, have been on the rise. Employers should carefully review new state and local guidance as well as their procedures to account for the new developments.
California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, updated emergency temporary standard requirements in June. These changes included adjustments to face-covering requirements for fully vaccinated workers while indoors and outdoors to mirror the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) guidance in place at the time of California’s reopening. This meant fully vaccinated employees were not required to wear face coverings while indoors so long as their employer had verified their vaccination status. In making this change, however, Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standard continued to direct employers to follow directives and orders from the state and local health departments, as well as CDPH guidance on the use of face coverings. Because the emergency temporary standard continues to direct employers to follow CDPH guidance, the Standards Board has indicated they do not plan to revise current emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 until December. On August 25, 2021, Cal/OSHA also stated in a press release that it “recommends” employers and workers follow the updated guidance from CDPH. It is important that employers review the different standards and follow the stricter standard that applies to their business.
On July 28th the CDPH revised its guidance regarding the use of face coverings to include recommending universal masking indoors statewide. Significantly, the CDPH also mandated masks for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, on public transit, indoors in K-12 schools, childcare, emergency shelters, cooling centers, healthcare settings, state and local correctional facilities and detention centers, homeless shelters, long term care settings, and adult and senior care facilities as defined by the Order.
For unvaccinated individuals, CDPH stated masks were required in indoor public settings and businesses subject to certain exemptions.
The guidance was issued after changes in the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) guidance recommending masking for indoor settings in areas with substantial and high transmission of COVID-19.
Even before the CDPH revised its face-covering guidance, several counties issued masking mandates, and more continue to join. Currently, the following counties require face coverings indoors regardless of vaccination status:
- Contra Costa
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- San Mateo
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Clara
- Santa Cruz
The State of California, through CDPH, has issued several orders implementing the state’s vaccination and workplace testing strategy for reducing COVID-19 case counts. Collectively, these orders require health care workers in certain facility settings to be vaccinated by September 30, 2021 or obtain an exemption from the vaccination requirement for religious reasons or a qualifying medical or health exception. If a worker covered by the orders is exempted, the workers must undergo testing at set frequencies depending on when they enter certain health care facilities and if those facilities are considered high risk. California has instituted similar strategies for workers in school settings.
Several counties have issued requirements that piggyback on the state mandates or place requirements for vaccine verification on particular industries.
- Contra Costa – Requirement for Vaccine Verification for First Responders
- Mendocino – Requiring Employers of Emergency Medical Services, Fire, Law Enforcement, and Operators of Temporary Disaster Shelters to Verify Vaccination Status.
- San Francisco – Vaccine Verification for Certain Businesses Staff and Patrons
- Sonoma – Requiring fire, law enforcement, emergency medical service workers, and staff to show proof of vaccination