USA | California’s New Order on COVID-19 Vaccines and Testing, encouraging state employees and health care workers to get vaccinated

The California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) has issued a State Public Health Officer Order (“Order”) on July 26, 2021, to combat the spread of COVID-19 cases. The Order applies to certain categories of health care and high-risk facilities, requires verification of workers’ vaccination status and compliance with masking guidelines, and imposes requirements for testing unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated workers. The Order will take effect on August 9, 2021, and all impacted California employer facilities must be in full compliance by August 23, 2021.

Keys takeaways from the Order:

  • The Order is applicable to people divided into 3 Categories/ facilities which are believed to be at high risk for transmission of COVID-19:
  • Acute Health Care and Long-Term Care Settings
  • High-Risk Congregate Settings
  • Other Health Care Settings
  • All impacted categories/facilities will be required to (1) verify vaccine status of all workers, (2) strictly adhere to current masking guidance under CDPH, and (3) establish testing requirements for unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated workers.
  • For verification of vaccine status, an impacted facility will need to follow established modes of vaccination verification pursuant to the CDPH’s Vaccine Record Guidelines & Standards. All impacted facilities must also have a plan in place to track worker vaccination records, which must be made available, upon request, to local health jurisdictions for case investigation(s).
  • All impacted facilities must adhere to current CDPH Masking Guidance, Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standards, and Emergency Temporary Standards requiring all unvaccinated workers be provided a respirator upon request.
  • For the category, Acute Health Care and Long-Term Care facilities, all unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers who “work in indoor work settings where (1) care is provided to patients or residents, or (2) to which patients or residents have access for any purpose” must be provided with respirators at no cost to the workers. Workers must also receive instruction on how to properly wear the respirator and how to check the seal of the respirator.
  • For the categories, High-Risk Congregate Settings and Other Health Care Settings, all unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers must be provided U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared surgical masks that must be worn in indoor settings when workers are working with another person.
  • Testing requirements are similarly distinguished by facility category:
  • For Acute Health Care and Long-Term facilities, asymptomatic unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers are required to undergo diagnostic screening testing at least twice a week.
  • For High-Risk Congregate Settings and Other Health Settings facilities, asymptomatic unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers are required to undergo diagnostic screening testing at least once a week, with encouragement for more frequent testing. The testing requirement of the Order makes it clear that unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers are not exempted from testing requirements even if a worker has a medical exemption to the vaccine.

*Tanvi Singh, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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