CDPH Issues Q&A on Face Covering Guidance

CATEGORY: Special Bulletins
CLIENT TYPE: Nonprofit, Private Education, Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
PUBLICATION: LCW Special Bulletin
DATE: Dec 16, 2021

On December 13, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued updated guidance concerning the mandatory use of face coverings in indoor public settings between December 15, 2021 and January 15, 2022. On December 14, 2021, the CDPH issued a Face Coverings Q&A to clarify certain aspects of the guidance.

In this bulletin, we identify some of the important clarifications provided in the CDPH Q&A.

Local Jurisdictions with Face Covering Requirements

According to the CDPH, the updated guidance applies only to those local health jurisdictions (i.e., counties and cities with their own health departments) that do not have an existing indoor face covering requirement that applies to individuals in public settings irrespective of their vaccination status.[1]

For jurisdictions that had such an indoor face covering requirement in place prior to December 13, 2021[2], those pre-existing local requirements will continue to apply, even if they are less stringent than the newly-issued CDPH guidance. In other jurisdictions where there was no such requirement, the CDPH guidance requiring the use of face coverings is now operative law.

Board and Commission Meetings

The CDPH Q&A expressly provides that local board and commission meetings qualify as “indoor public settings.”

Therefore, all board and commission members, staff, participants, and attendees at indoor meetings should observe the new face covering requirements.[3]

K-12 Schools and Child Care Providers

The CDPH Q&A confirms that the updated face covering guidance does not change existing K-12 schools and childcare face covering requirements, which are set forth in the CDPH K-12 Guidance and Childcare Providers and Programs Guidance.[4]

As such, child care providers and programs and K-12 schools should continue to observe operative face covering requirements applicable to staff and students in such settings.

Specific Exceptions to the General Face Covering Requirement

Importantly, the CDPH Q&A also provides additional specific circumstances in which the face covering requirements do not apply, including the following:

  • While persons are actively eating or drinking.
  • When persons are working alone in a closed office or room.
  • For workers who wear respiratory protection pursuant to Cal/OSHA requirements.

These clarifications narrow the circumstances under which employees must wear face coverings.  However, the clarifications make clear that employees who work at desks or in cubicles in open work areas would be subject to the face covering requirement.

LCW attorneys are familiar with the new face covering requirements and the interaction between these requirements and other legal obligations and are available to assist clients with questions related to face coverings.

[1] See CDPH Q&A, “Does this impact local masking requirements?” https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Face-Coverings-QA.aspx

[2] Counties that have adopted face covering requirements include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) Alameda; (2) Contra Costa; (3) Los Angeles; (4) Marin; (5) Monterey; (6) San Francisco; (7) San Luis Obispo; (8) San Mateo; (9) Santa Clara; (10) Santa Cruz; (11) Sonoma; (12) Sacramento; (13) Ventura; and (14) Yolo. Employers in these jurisdictions should confirm that the operative face covering order applied to all persons regardless of their vaccination status.

[3] See CDPH Q&A, “Do ‘indoor public settings’ include local board and commission meetings?” https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Face-Coverings-QA.aspx

[4] See CDPH Q&A, “Are children required to wear masks indoors in K-12 schools and childcare settings?” https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Face-Coverings-QA.aspx

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