California Re-Opens for Business (Kind of)
As of June 15, 2021, California has officially re-opened! But, before we ring the victory bell and pull the good scotch out of the cellar, we should look at a few spaces that aren’t able to go back to pre-COVID operations just yet.
Cal/OSHA is tasked with setting and enforcing workplace safety standards for all workers in the state of California. So, while certain pandemic restrictions have been relaxed or revoked,[i] restrictions in the workplace will remain in effect until Cal/OSHA makes changes to the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) that were implemented in November 2020.[ii] Cal/OSHA’s Board will hold its regular meeting tomorrow, June 17th, and will consider revisions[iii] to the ETS at that time.
In addition to the standards set by Cal/OSHA, employees may be entitled to workers compensation if they are infected with COVID-19 at their workplace. Senate Bill 1159[iv] was signed into law on September 17, 2020 and remains in effect until January 1, 2023 (unless repealed or amended). The employee’s COVID-19 illness is presumed to be work-related if they test positive during a COVID-19 outbreak at their place of employment.[v]
Also of note, businesses may still require that patrons/clients/customers wear masks to enter their premises. Since unvaccinated people are still required by the state of California[vi] to wear facial coverings in indoor public settings and businesses, businesses may require everyone to wear a mask rather than get into a policy of requiring proof of vaccination for entry.
Schools & Childcare Facilities
As of now, K-12 schools[vii] and childcare facilities[viii] are still operating under the Public Health Guidance requirements released last year from the Department of Public Health (CDPH). These requirements include mask-wearing, potentially limiting the parents/guardians from entering the premises for pick-up and drop-off, health screenings and temperature checks, and social distancing (as much as possible) within classrooms.
The requirements for K-12 schools may change as we get closer to the start of the 2021-22 school year; however, they may stay in place for certain grade levels dependent on vaccination rates and availability[ix] for children under 12. Currently, only persons aged 12 and up can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.[x] Additionally, the CDPH recently updated the K-12 page (as of June 4, 2021), so parents and students may be in for another hybrid learning setup in the Fall, but hopefully the CDPH will release more updates as we get closer to the start of the new school year.
The ‘Beyond the Blueprint’ guidelines require that ‘mega events’ held indoors (with more than 5,000 attendees) require proof of vaccination, while proof of vaccination is only strongly recommended for those events held outdoors (with more than 10,000 attendees).[xi] These types of events include conferences, sporting events, state fairs, concerts, conventions, festivals, and expos: any kind of gathering with a lot of people from different households who will be in close proximity to one another.
As for theaters and performance spaces, the capacity restrictions have been removed along with the Tier system. While there may still be concerns for the health of production workers and performers, the restrictions on the audience (dependent on size) are no longer a barrier to in-person performances. However, union guidelines and any industry-specific regulations from cities and counties still must be followed.
Not every business and not every industry will automatically go ‘back to normal’ now that some of the state-wide mandates have been lifted.
Continue to monitor the CDPH and Cal/OSHA websites for guidance on workplaces, schools and childcare centers, and entertainment events.
Bring a mask with you, just in case your local ice cream shop still has their mask requirement in place.
[i] https://www.gov.ca.gov/2021/06/11/as-california-fully-reopens-governor-newsom-announces-plans-to-lift-pandemic-executive-orders/. [ii] https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/ETS.html. [iii] https://www.dir.ca.gov/oshsb/documents/Jun172021-COVID-19-Prevention-Emergency-txtcourtesy-Readoption.pdf. [iv] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB1159. [v] See, Cal. Labor Code § 3212.88(a)(3) and § 3212.88(m)(4). [vi] https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx. [vii] https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/COVID19-K12-Schools-InPerson-Instruction.aspx. [viii]https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-childcare--en.pdf. [ix] https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/05/14/covid-vaccine-kids-under-12-trials/. [x] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/adolescents.html. [xi] https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Beyond-Blueprint-Framework.aspx.