MKA California Reopening Update
“Good morning California… It’s reopening day…”, Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted.
After 15 long months, California is set to reopen its economy today and life is starting to return to normal. This also means that most of the evolving restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are set to be lifted. Here is a quick overview of some additional information related to the state’s reopening we wanted to highlight.
On Tuesday, June 15th, Newsom traveled to Universal Studios in Los Angeles County as the state officially moves to reopen. He noted that today marks the end of pandemic-era restrictions such as masks, social distancing, and capacity restrictions in most settings. A factsheet from the Administration regarding the state’s reopening can be found here: https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Beyond-the-Blueprint-Fact-Sheet.pdf.
To “celebrate this momentous occasion”, Newsom alongside state elected officials also announced 10 lucky winners to receive $1.5 million each, for a total of $15 million, as part of the final cash prize drawing in the state’s $116.5 million Vax for the Win program. According to the Governor’s office, “Since Vax for the Win launched, roughly 2 million vaccine doses have been reported, including over 838,000 Californians newly starting their vaccination process.” The latest figures show that, in total, California has administered nearly 40 million vaccine doses and more than 70 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose.
Also, yesterday, June 14th, Newsom announced an addition to the Vax for the Win program – California “Dream Vacation” packages. Specifically starting on July 1st, all Californians aged 18 and older who are at least partially vaccinated will have the chance to win in a randomized drawing for one of six different vacation packages to select California cities, including Anaheim, Greater Palm Springs, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Details on the Dream Vacations packages can be found at covid19.ca.gov/vax-for-the-win/.
Also notable – on June 11th, Newsom took action to lift pandemic Executive Orders (EOs). That included terminating the Stay-at-Home Order that was implemented on March 19th, 2020 and retiring the color-coded county tier system known as the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Specifically, as noted in a Governor’s office press release, “The Governor’s Office established a timeline and process to continue winding down the various provisions of the 58 COVID-related executive orders, which suspended statutes and regulations to help the state and businesses continue operations during the pandemic. To ensure that impacted individuals and entities have time to prepare for the changes, the provisions will sunset in phases, beginning later this month, in July and in September. For example, the suspension of certain licensing requirements for manufacturers to produce hand sanitizer will end on June 30, as shortages are no longer a concern. By the end of September, nearly 90 percent of the executive actions taken since March 2020 will have been lifted.”
A copy of the order terminating the Stay-at-Home Order and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy can be found here. A copy of the order rolling back additional pandemic order provisions can be found here.
Newsom however has previously noted he is not ready to lift the State of Emergency Order yet. Specifically, he has said, “We’re still in a state of emergency. This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished. It’s not taking the summer months off.” As additional background, Newsom first declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020. The declaration means California can be reimbursed from the federal government for many of its pandemic-related expenses. It also affords Newsom additional- and broad- authority to temporarily impose new rules and restrictions to help the government act quickly in times of crisis. Throughout the pandemic, Newsom exercised this power on numerous occasions.
In response to this news, on June 7th, Assemblymember Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), and Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) sent a letter to Newsom requesting an explanation for his decision to extend the State of Emergency beyond June 15th. Newsom has not specified when he would reconsider lifting the State of Emergency order but has noted that the state might need to reimpose restrictions if case rates rise as variants of the virus spread.
Also, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released a new State Public Health Officer Order that goes into effect on June 15th. The Order replaces the previous pandemic public health orders with limited requirements related to face coverings and mega events. This order can be found here: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Order-of-the-State-Public-Health-Officer-Beyond-Blueprint.aspx.
Specifically, please see updated Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings also issued by the CDPH here: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx. The purpose of this guidance is to align with CDC recommendations and provide information about higher risk settings where masks are required or recommended to prevent transmission to persons with higher risk of infection (e.g., unvaccinated or immunocompromised persons), to persons with prolonged, cumulative exposures (e.g., workers), or to persons whose vaccination status is unknown.
Notably, in workplaces, employers are subject to the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) which in part also address if and when employees are required to wear masks. The ETS have been subject to a lot of discussion lately. Recall, Cal/OSHA adopted its original standards in 2020 to “reduce employee exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 and therefore reduce COVID-19 illness and transmission.”
Previous updates to the rules were intended to reflect the improving state of the pandemic. However, those revisions were notably inconsistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and the Governor’s own directive to fully re-open California on June 15th. This being the case, on June 9, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board held a special meeting to hear from the California Department of Public Health on new face covering guidance. At that meeting, the Board decided to withdraw incompatible revisions to the ETS. The board the posted new revisions on June 11th that incorporate the latest public health guidance, allowing vaccinated workers to not wear face coverings generally. For unvaccinated workers, face coverings will still be required indoors or when in vehicles, with limited exceptions. These revisions will be considered at the board’s regular meeting on Thursday, June 17th. In the meantime, the original rules adopted in November of 2020 remain in effect.
However, in welcomed news to employers, Newsom has said he will issue an Executive Order to immediately drop the state's mask mandate for vaccinated workers if the Board adopts the proposal, as expected, on Thursday. Normally, these types of rules would need to undergo a review process prior to taking effect. The soonest the new rules could go into effect would have been June 28th, so the Governor’s commitment helps clarify any ambiguity.
Also this week, in terms of the Legislative announcements – the California State Capitol building reopened in a limited capacity. The building has largely been closed to the public, with small exceptions, throughout the pandemic beginning in March 2020. Specifically, on June 11th, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), released the following statement on expanding Capitol building access beginning June 15th:
Attached please find a Senate Memo with additional information detailing the updated COVID-19 Protocols: Post June 15, 2021. Among other things the memo notes that Senators who wish to take in-person meetings (drop-in or scheduled) in their Capitol or district office may do as of June 15th.
Also, members of the public will continue to be required to:
- Clear a COVID-19 screening, including a temperature check.
- Wear a mask at all times while in the Capitol building. Masks will be provided at the Security pavilion to anyone who needs one.
- Adhere to social distancing.
- Remain orderly and refrain from disruptive behavior
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