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Additional Information and Resources for Private Schools Related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We issued Special Bulletins earlier this week on Student and Employee Issues related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The World Health Organization (“WHO”) has declared that the global spread of COVID-19 can now be characterized as a pandemic. There has also been additional guidance issued by cities, counties, and the state with regard to the Coronavirus, including guidance regarding social distancing, and cancelling and postponing community events. The state has also issued clarification that employees may apply for State Disability Insurance (SDI), Paid Family Leave benefits (PFL), and Unemployment Insurance benefits in connection with the Coronavirus. Schools should be aware of the resources and information discussed below, as well as the specific recommendations and requirements made by local officials.
A. The World Health Organization Has Declared that the Spread of COVID-19 is Now a Pandemic
The WHO issued a situation report on March 11, 2020, in which it declared that the spread of COVID-19 is now a pandemic. The report can be accessed here: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200311-sitrep-51-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=1ba62e57_4. The WHO states that describing the situation as a pandemic does not change its assessment of the threat posed by COVID-19. In this situation report, the WHO defines people who are at higher risk of getting severe COVID-19 disease as people over the age of 60, and those with underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer). The WHO also states that “risk of severe disease gradually increases with age starting from around 40 years. It’s important that adults in this age range protect themselves and in turn, protect others that may be more vulnerable.”
B. The State and Counties Issue Guidance Regarding Cancelling or Postponing Community Events
The State and individual counties are issuing guidance (and in some cases directives) regarding canceling or postponing social gatherings, as well as additional guidance for schools, including the following:
- On March 11, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued statewide guidance recommending that Californians postpone all non-essential gatherings through the end of March, including even small social gatherings in places where people cannot remain at least six feet apart. The Governor’s press release is accessible here: http://www.oesnews.com/california-public-health-experts-mass-gatherings-should-be-postponed-or-canceled-statewide-to-slow-the-spread-of-covid-19/.
- The California Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 11, 2020, that states all non-essential professional, social, and community gatherings of 250 people or more be postponed or canceled, and recommending gatherings of people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 be limited to no more than 10 people. The guidance also states that smaller gatherings held in venues that do not allow social distancing of six feet per person should be postponed or canceled. The guidance defines a “gathering” as “any event or convening that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space.” The guidance states that it does not apply to activities “such as attendance at regular school classes, work, or essential services.”
- Contra Costa County Health Services (“CCHS’) issued Interim Guidance for Social Distancing, which can be accessed here: https://cchealth.org/coronavirus/pdf/COVID-19-Interim-Guidance-for-Social-Distancing.pdf. In this guidance, CCHS recommends that over the next two weeks groups cancel or postpone large gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, celebrations, conventions, religious services and community events where 50 or more people are within arm’s length of each other. The guidance provides that schools take certain measures, such as equipping all schools and classrooms with hand sanitizer and tissues, rescheduling medium to large sized events that are not essential, exploring remote teaching options, and developing a plan for school closures.
- Alameda County Public Health Department (“ACPHD”) issued new recommendations and guidelines for residents regarding the Coronavirus, which can be accessed here: http://www.acphd.org/2019-ncov.aspx. In this guidance, the ACPHD recommends postponing or canceling non-essential mass gatherings and large community events where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another. The ACPHD also issues guidance for schools, and recommends that schools consider “alternates to congregate or group programming within the school including any large or communal activities such as assemblies.” ACPHD states that “[a]lternate approaches which limit close contact may include conducting assemblies via webcasts or intercom announcements.”
- Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department issued a mandatory order requiring the cancellation of mass gatherings in the County. This order will take effect at 12:00 a.m. on March 11, 2020 and will remain in place for three weeks. A “mass gathering” is any event or convening that brings together one thousand (1,000) or more people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, theater, or any other confined indoor or confined outdoor space. The directive provides additional guidance for smaller community events, workplaces and businesses, and childcare and schools. The directive states that schools are responsible for taking the following measures:
- Teachers and staff with any fever and/or respiratory symptoms should not come to work. Teachers and staff should self-screen (i.e., check themselves for subjective fever and/or respiratory symptoms such as cough) for symptoms each morning before interacting with students.
- Ensure sick leave policies that allow teachers and staff to stay home if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
- Implement staggered recess times to limit the number of students who are together; and, if possible, group recess by classrooms to reduce opportunities for mixing.
- Consider alternatives to group programming within the school including any large or communal activities, such as assemblies and large-scale sporting events. Alternate approaches that limit close contact may include conducting assemblies via webcasts or intercom announcement and limiting the number of spectators who can attend sporting events.
- Limit visitors to the school by not allowing those with symptoms of fever and/or respiratory infection.
- San Francisco’s Health Department has issued recommendations for social distancing, as well as steps that schools should be taking. The Department issued specific guidance for schools in its recommendations, which include equipping all schools and classrooms with hand sanitizers and tissues, rescheduling or cancelling medium to large events that are not essential, exploring remote teaching and online options to continue learning, and developing a plan for citywide school closures.
- Sacramento County announced on Mar 9, 2020, that it is shifting its efforts to slow the spread of the virus from containment to community mitigation. That means that people who have come into contact with someone who has the coronavirus will no longer have to quarantine themselves for 14 days, according to a county news release, which is accessible here: https://www.saccounty.net/news/latest-news/Pages/County-Announces-New-Mitigation-Efforts-COVID-19.aspx. The County states that schools who have COVID-19 exposure or a case should be in close collaboration with the local health department and the County Office of Education regarding appropriate next steps. The County’s announcement also states that people at higher risk should consider staying home and away from crowded social gatherings where people are within arm’s length, such as parades, conferences, sporting events and concerts. The County states that workplaces and businesses may consider implementing telecommuting and teleconferencing for their employees, where appropriate and feasible.
- On March 12, 2020, Riverside County Department of Public Health issued an order cancelling all public gatherings within the County of 250 or more people. The order is accessible here: https://www.rivcoph.org/Portals/0/Documents/CoronaVirus/Mass_gatherings_3.12.20.pdf
- Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued guidance for school administrators, which can be accessed here: http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/GuidanceSchoolAdministrators.pdf
- San Diego County Department of Public Health has issued guidance for schools to slow or stop the spread of the coronavirus.
C. San Francisco Issues Guidance on Implementation of the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
San Francisco has issued guidance regarding the use of San Francisco paid sick leave for situations involving the recent Coronavirus outbreak, which is accessible here: https://sfgov.org/olse/san-francisco-paid-sick-leave-coronavirus. The guidance states that employers covered by the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance must allow covered employees to use accrued sick leave in the following situations:
- The employee takes time off work because public health officials or healthcare providers require or recommend an employee isolate or quarantine to prevent the spread of disease;
- The employee takes time off work because the employee falls within the definition of a “vulnerable population” under the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s (DPH) March 6, 2020 guidelines or any subsequent updates. As of March 6, 2020, a “vulnerable population” is a person who is 60 years old or older or a person with a health condition such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or weakened immune system;
- The employee takes time off work because the employee’s business or a work location temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation;
- The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member who is not sick but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended isolate or quarantine; or
- The employee takes time off work because the employee needs to provide care for a family member whose school, child care provider, senior care provider, or work temporarily ceases operations in response to a public health or other public official’s recommendation.
D. The EDD Announces Eligibility for SDI, PFL, and Unemployment Insurance Benefits in Connection with the Coronavirus
The Employment Development Department (EDD) has announced that employees who are not able to be at work or whose work hours have been reduced due to the Coronavirus may be eligible to receive State Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, or Paid Family Leave benefits. Governor Gavin Newsom stated the following about these benefits:
- If an employee is not able to come to work because the employee is caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19, the employee may qualify for Paid Family Leave (PFL).
- If an employee is not able to come to work due to medical quarantine or illness, the employee may qualify for State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits. Those who have lost a job or have had their hours reduced for reasons related to COVID-19 may be able to partially recover their wages by filing an unemployment insurance claim.
E. Additional Resources
Additional resources that are helpful to schools regarding the Coronavirus include the following:
- The Department of Industrial Relations has posted an FAQ regarding laws enforced by the Labor Commissioner regarding the Coronavirus: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm
- The Department of Industrial Relations has posted guidance from the California Division of Occupational Safety (Cal/OSHA) regarding protecting workers from the Coronavirus: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/Health-Care-General-Industry.html
- The California Chamber of Commerce has listed resources for employers related to the Coronavirus: https://advocacy.calchamber.com/coronavirus-covid-19/
- The California Department of Health has posted guidance regarding the Coronavirus: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/nCOV2019.aspx.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has posted information about the Coronavirus: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/.
- The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has compiled helpful information for employers and employees.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides extensive and current information, which can be accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.