Governor Newsom Announces New Blueprint for Safer Economy Plan; California Department of Public Health Issues Guidance Regarding Tier Framework for Reducing COVID-19 and Adjusting Permitted Sector Activities

Category: Special Bulletins
Date: Sep 3, 2020 01:35 PM

On Friday, August 28, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” plan, effective August 31, 2020, which imposes color-coded, risk-based criteria on tightening and loosening COVID-19 allowable activities and expands the length of time between changes to assess how movement affects the trajectory of the disease. This Blueprint replaces the previous County Data Monitoring List for determining what activities can and cannot reopen. On August 28, 2020, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) also issued a Plan for Reducing COVID-19 and Adjusting Permitted Sector Activities to Keep Californians Healthy and Safe, which provides information on how to interpret the Blueprint’s color-coded Tier System Framework and the steps required for a county to advance to the next tier.

The new Tier Framework lays out the metrics that each county must meet to advance to the next tier. It is important to note that a county may have more restrictions than this framework, so each district should check with its local public health agency to determine whether there are any additional restrictions. The Tier Framework provides that each county will fall into one of four colored tiers – Purple (Widespread/Tier 1), Red (Substantial/Tier 2), Orange (Moderate/Tier 3), and Yellow (Minimal/Tier 4) – based on how prevalent COVID-19 is in each county and the extent of community spread. That tier/color will indicate how colleges in a specific county may operate. The CDPH offered the following chart as a framework metric, as set according to tiers based on risk of community disease transition:

chart-1

*To advance to the next tier, a county must meet the metrics as described below.

**Case rate is determined using confirmed (by PCR) cases, and dos not include state and federal inmate cases. Case rates may be adjusted for counties that are testing above the state average.

*** Excludes state and federal inmate cases

Source:  https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/COVID19CountyMonitoringOverview.aspx

Moving through the Tiers

The CDPH provides rules for how each county may move through the tiers as follows:

  1. CDPH will assess indicators weekly, and the first weekly assessment will be released on September 8, 2020.
  2. A county will remain in a tier for a minimum of 3 weeks before advancing to a later tier.
  3. A county can only move forward one tier at a time.
  4. If a county’s case rate and test positivity measure fall into two different tiers, the county will be assigned to a more restrictive tier.
  5. City local health jurisdiction (LHJ) data will be included in overall metrics, and CDPH will assign city LHJs the same tier as the surrounding county.

Initial step applied on August 28, 2020:

  1. Each county is assigned to a tier based on an adjusted case rate and test positivity from the prior two reporting periods. If a county’s case rate and test positivity measure fall into two different tiers, the county will be assigned the more restrictive tier.
  2. This tier status will be effective August 31, 2020.
  3. If a county is initially assigned to Purple Tier 1 and has met the criteria for a less restrictive tier the prior week, the county only needs to meet the criteria for a less restrictive tier for one more week to move to the Red Tier 2. The CDPH clarifies that for the September 8, 2020 assignment, a county does not need to remain in the Purple Tier 1 for three weeks. For all subsequent assessments, a county must remain in a tier for three weeks and meet the criteria to advance as described below.

To advance:

  1. A county must have been in the current tier for a minimum of three weeks, except as described in the “Initial step applied on August 28, 2020” section above.
  2. A county must meet criteria for the next tier for both measures for the prior two consecutive weeks in order to progress to the next tier. 
  3. In addition, the state will establish health equity measures on activities such as data collection, testing access, contact tracing, supportive isolation, and outreach that demonstrate a county's ability to address the most impacted communities within a county. Additional measures addressing health outcomes such as case rates, hospitalizations and deaths, will also be developed and tracked for improvement.

To move back:

  1. During the weekly assessment, if a county's adjusted case rate or test positivity has been within a more restrictive tier for two consecutive weekly periods, the county must revert to the more restrictive tier.
  2. At any time, state and county public health officials may work together to determine targeted interventions or county wide modifications necessary to address impacted hospital capacity and drivers of disease transmission, as needed.
  3. Counties will have three days to implement any sector changes or closures unless extreme circumstances merit immediate action.
  4. The plan also includes an “emergency brake” where the State can intervene more immediately for concerning factors like hospitalizations.

Tier Framework as it Applies to Community College Districts:

The following activities are allowed depending on the tier of the county where the community college campus is located:

Widespread (purple):

  • Closed for indoor lectures and student gatherings
  • Some courses conducted in certain indoor settings, such as labs and studio arts, may be open

Substantial (red):

  • Capacity for indoor lectures and student gatherings must be limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is less
  • Some courses conducted in certain indoor settings, such as labs and studio arts, may be open at regular capacity
  • Conduct student activities and group events virtually when possible

Moderate (orange):

  • Capacity for indoor lectures and student gatherings must be limited to 50% or 200 people, whichever is less
  • Some courses conducted in certain indoor settings, such as labs and studio arts, may be open
  • Conduct student activities and group events virtually when possible

Minimal (yellow):

  • Capacity for indoor lectures and student gatherings must be limited to 50%
  • Some courses conducted in certain indoor settings, such as labs and studio arts, may be open regular capacity
  • Conduct student activities and group events virtually when possible

Source:  https://covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance/

Community college districts must do the following before reopening:

  • Review sector specific guidance from CDPH, see below.
  • Perform a detailed risk assessment and create a worksite-specific protection plan.
  • Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes how to screen themselves for symptoms and when to stay home.
  • Set up individual control measures and screenings.
  • Put disinfection protocols in place.
  • Establish physical distancing guidelines.
  • Establish universal face covering requirements (with allowed exceptions). See CDPH guidelines.
  • Post a completed checklist so the public can know the steps the district has taken. The district can add more safety measures to the ones included in the industry guidance.

The CDPH has issued interim guidance for institutions of higher education and provides guidelines to help institutions and their communities plan and prepare to resume in-person instruction.  The CDPH encourages districts to review the guidance and prepare a plan to reduce the risk of spread of the virus and support a safer environment for students, faculty, workers, and families.  Districts should also review the Report of the Safe Campus Reopening Workgroup, published by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.  

Additionally, the new framework does not appear to change existing rules allowing essential critical infrastructure to remain open.  In furtherance of supporting essential critical infrastructure, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office issued a memorandum on July 6, 2020, to clarify guidance regarding continuity of instruction and resuming in-person training for community college programs serving the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the memorandum, community colleges may continue with the instruction of students in programs that support the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.  The programs that meet these criteria can resume in-person instruction and training, as long as they implement the appropriate physical distancing and face coverings protocols, as required by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and local public health officials, to reduce person-to-person contact to prevent the spread of COVID19.  Although it is not clear, the new Blueprint Framework likely does not prevent in person instruction for programs that support essential critical infrastructure sectors.

Districts should contact their legal counsel if they are uncertain about whether or not they are allowed to reopen and what programs may reopen based on this new Tier Framework.

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