The California Department of Public Health ("CDPH") has updated its COVID-19 orders regarding workers in health care settings as well as workers in schools. CDPH’s announcement is available here, and further information on these updates is summarized below.
On September 13, 2022, the CDPH issued its latest COVID-19 order titled, “Health Care Worker Vaccine Requirement” (the “Order”). The Order takes effect on September 17, 2022. To review the full Order, click here.
Most significantly, the Order rescinds the former weekly testing requirement (except as specifically noted to comply with federal requirements) for health care workers that were exempt from receiving the vaccine due to medical reasons or sincerely-held religious beliefs. However, vaccination-exempt workers must wear a respirator approved by the National Institute of Safety and Health, such as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator or surgical mask, at all times while in the facility.
The Order also states that it does not alter or limit the CDPH's previous requirements related to Personal Protective Equipment, personnel training and infection control. These requirements remain in effect under the prior CDPH order, which means that masks are still required for all individuals in healthcare settings.
In addition, although most health care workers will no longer be subject to weekly testing requirements, Skilled Nursing facilities still must continue to comply with current federal requirements and possibly more stringent testing of staff.
Despite the Order's rescission of the weekly testing requirement for most health care workers, the CDPH still recommends that covered health care facilities should maintain testing capacity and be able to ramp up testing at their worksite on short notice in the event of outbreaks or if it is required again at a future date.
Finally, the Order reiterates that the current requirements regarding vaccinations and boosters for covered health care workers remain in effect. It also updates the timing of required booster doses to be consistent with current CDC recommendations. A chart of the California Immunization Requirements for Covered Workers is contained within the Order.
Remember that local jurisdictions are authorized to (and do) implement additional COVID-19 requirements which may be more restrictive than those found in state or federal requirements. Always be sure to review the federal, state and local rules on a regular basis. In addition, note that the CDC's guidance is typically less restrictive than California's CDPH Orders. Employers must be sure to follow the CDPH requirements rather than the instructive CDC guidance published from time to time.
As we have learned over the past two years, the COVID-19 rules, regulations and guidance are ever-evolving and constant vigilance is required to remain in compliance. For example, Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”) are set to expire after December 31, 2022. Click here for a LightGabler refresher regarding the most recent ETS update. In its place, Cal/OSHA is expected to enact a “permanent” COVID-19 rule that is expected to take effect on January 1, 2023.
As it stands, many of the requirements in the current ETS are expected to be preserved, but there are proposed changes currently being discussed, including the possible elimination of exclusion pay, addressing COVID-19 through an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (“IIPP”), an expansion to the reporting and recordkeeping requirements and providing employers with greater flexibility in notifying those that were in close contact with a COVID-19 case. LightGabler will continue to provide updates as additional information is provided by the CDPH or Cal/OSHA on these topics.
For questions regarding COVID-19 requirements or assistance with other employment law issues, contact the attorneys at LightGabler.