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California Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Issue Updated Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings
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, School employees whose workstations/cubicles are in an open area 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. Similarly, students must wear face coverings anytime they are in classrooms, common areas, and shared spaces of the School, absent an applicable exemption.
This CDPH guidance follows updated guidance issued on November 12, 2020, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on considerations for wearing masks.
Schools should consider how they intend to address the updated guidance. Schools may consider notifying parents and employees about the CDPH guidance and revising protocols for the use of face coverings at the school.
The section on face coverings in the CDPH COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs has not been modified, and Schools must also continue to comply with the requirements set forth in the CDPH Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs. The CDPH Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs imposes additional requirements regarding the use of face coverings.
Schools must comply with the CDPH requirements provided for in the updated guidance on face coverings and the CDPH Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs. Should a school 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 school’s operations, LCW attorneys are available to answer your questions.