On November 16, 2020, in response to significant increases in the incidence rates of COVID-19 in the state, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued updated guidance concerning the use of face coverings. The updated guidance requires that individuals wear a face covering at all times when outside of the home unless one of the eleven (11) enumerated exemptions applies. Unlike other guidance issued by the CDPH that is advisory in nature, the guidance concerning face coverings is mandatory.
The updated guidance is significantly more prescriptive and the exemptions are more narrowly tailored than prior guidance from CDPH concerning the use of face coverings.
For example, the updated guidance provides a limited exemption to “[p]ersons who are working in an office or in a room alone”. Prior guidance only required that individuals wear a face covering when working “in any room or enclosed area where other people are present when unable to physically distance.” As a result, public agency employees whose workstations/cubicles are in an area with an open floor plan are likely subject to the face covering requirement while working at their workstations unless their work station/cubicle is in a room where they are alone.
Public agencies should consider how they intend to address the updated guidance. Public agencies may consider notifying employees and employee organizations about the CDPH guidance and revising agency protocols for the use of face coverings by agency employees and at agency worksites and facilities.
Public agencies must comply with the CDPH requirements provided for in the updated guidance. Should an agency not comply with the guidance, the CDPH possesses statutory authority to commence an action to enforce its regulations, enjoin or abate nuisances dangerous to public health, and to compel the performance of an act relating to public health.
If you have questions about this guidance and how it may affect your agency’s operations, LCW attorneys are available to answer your questions.