What California Employers Need to Know About Current State and Federal COVID-19 Vaccine/Testing Regulations

Sadly, COVID-19 remains with us. In an ongoing effort to control the spread of the virus, our state and federal governments continue to push forward regulations and policies guaranteed to impact the workplace. Here are some important developments:

School Workers Must Prove Vaccination or Weekly COVID-19 Testing

On August 11, 2021, the state of California ordered all workers in public and private K-12 schools to show proof of vaccination. Workers unable to show proof of vaccination must undergo weekly PCR or antigen testing for COVID-19. Schools with unvaccinated workers should develop a plan to track testing results and conduct contact tracing. Results must be submitted to local public health departments. Covered schools have until October 15, 2021 to comply with requirements.

Nursing Homes Mandate Staff Vaccinations or Face Federal Funding Loss

On August 18, 2021, President Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services to require nursing homes to require all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face possible loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding. There is presently no deadline for compliance. However, any California nursing home that has not already mandated employee vaccination in compliance with the California Department of Public Health’s August 5th order that all health care workers to be vaccinated by September 30, 2021, should ensure compliance.

California Legislature Contemplates Statewide Workplace Vaccine Mandate

Rumors out of Sacramento suggest the California legislature is contemplating a statewide mandate that all employers require employees in every industry to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. If such legislation comes to fruition, California would lead the nation in workplace vaccine mandates.
Importantly, there is no draft bill and any legislation would need to clear hurdles, including possible resistance from business interests, and may hinge on the outcome of the election to recall Gov. Newsom.

Cal/OSHA Encourages Masking Indoors Regardless of Vaccination Status

In an August 25th press release, Cal/OSHA said, “as a best practice, Cal/OSHA encourages employers and workers to follow the recent update from the [California Department of Public Health] recommending that all individuals wear face coverings while indoors regardless of vaccination status.”
This is a recommendation only and the election by employers not to require vaccinated workers to wear masks will not expose them to Cal/OSHA penalties. This could change and we will continue to monitor the situation. Additionally, a California Department of Public Health Guidance published on July 28, 2021, requires masks “for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public).” Exceptions to this broad mandate apply.

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