California Department of Public Health Orders Face Coverings in Nearly All Workplace Situations

CATEGORY: Special Bulletins
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
AUTHOR: Anthony Risucci
PUBLICATION: LCW Special Bulletin
DATE: Jun 22, 2020

On June 18, 2020, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued a public health order (the “Order”) mandating the use of cloth face coverings[1] in many “high-risk situations.” Many of these situations covered by the Order will implicate public employees during the normal course of their job duties.

The Order is based upon public health findings that the use of face coverings substantially limits the release of respiratory droplets when an individual is talking, coughing, and/or sneezing and the use of such coverings may substantially decrease transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. The Order updates advisory guidance that CDPH previously issued on April 1, 2020, which recommended, but did not require the use of face coverings in some of the situations covered by the Order.

The Order enumerates the specific situations that CDPH considers to be “high-risk,” including when any person is “[i]nside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space” and where an employee is “[e]ngaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site” and performing one of the following activities:

  • Interacting in-person with any member of the public;
  • Working in any space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time;
  • Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
  • Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities; and
  • In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present when unable to physically distance;

The Order also mandates face coverings in situations that implicate the provision of public transportation, and for individuals who “driv[e] or operat[e] any public transportation or paratransit vehicle.”

The Order exempts certain classes of people, including “persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering,” and “persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing.”  CDPH advises that individuals who satisfy one of the exemption criteria should wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.

LCW is closely monitoring legal updates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and our attorneys are ready and able to address any questions that you and your agency may have regarding face coverings or any other issue related to COVID-19.

[1] The Order defines cloth face covering as “a material that covers the nose and mouth.”  This broad definition provides individuals discretion in the material for the face covering.