May 23, 2020
On May 23, 2020, the State of California approved Orange County’s plan to move to Stage Two of re-opening (Stage Four is the removal of all restrictions) which allows dine-in restaurants, retail shopping, manufacturing, offices (where teleworking isn’t possible) and outdoor museums to reopen immediately under safety guidelines to ensure social distancing. Businesses must complete a safety plan and training, but they can do so on their own, without further approvals from any governmental body. Salons, religious services and gyms still are not allowed to reopen throughout the State, though the Governor has said he will announce next week when those establishments will be allowed to reopen.
Back on May 4, 2020, Governor Newsom had issued a new Executive Order that allowed limited reopening of certain businesses as part of the State’s larger, staged plan referred to as the “Resilience Roadmap.” In conjunction with this roadmap, several counties, including Orange, developed their own reopening roadmaps. Orange County’s initial guidance stated that in early Stage Two, curb-side retail, manufacturers, and logistics could all open, but more steps needed to be taken on the resilience roadmap to move into full Stage Two. As those of us who live here vividly recall, Orange County initially clashed with Governor Newsom, when he ordered just Orange County’s beaches closed down immediately after telling counties that they could implement their own plans for reopening. Local officials here decried the decision, with many OC cities filing lawsuits to block the Governor’s action. A week later, Newsom agreed to reopen OC’s beaches if they limited hours of operation and enforced social distancing guidelines.
As noted in the County’s weekend press release, “County of Orange has met the State’s latest metrics to remove its restrictions on the re-opening of more businesses.” The OC Health Care Agency (“HCA”) encourages business owners and operators review the State’s Guidance at https://covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance/ and prepare a plan that can be implemented and posted at their workplace. Before businesses who meet the Stage Two criteria reopen, the HCA strongly recommends they perform the following steps:
- Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan.
- Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them.
- Implement individual control measures and screenings.
- Implement disinfecting protocols.
- Implement physical distancing guidelines.
As noted in previous CDF blogs, employers need to prepare a Covid-19 Response Plan, including all of the foregoing steps set forth by the County of Orange as it follows the State’s resiliency roadmap. This Response Plan can be a supplement to your company’s injury and illness prevention program (“IIPP”), and can be used for training employees, and posting at the workplace along with your other state and federal employment law postings.
The language chosen by Orange County here is “recommends,” which means it is not mandated, and there is no stated enforcement mechanism. However, we all need to do our part to keep the reopen train running, so businesses should take the recommendation seriously, and take the appropriate steps to reopen safely and properly.
Orange County Health Order
On March 17, 2020, Orange County issued an initial order prohibiting all public and private gatherings of any number, including at places of work, occurring outside a single household or living unit. This prohibition applies to all professional, social and community gatherings that are not engaged in “Essential Activities.” The initial order caused great confusion and in the evening, Orange County clarified that it was not a shelter in place order and that an amendment would follow.
Essential Activities are defined to include anyone engaged in the services deemed essential under the Sacramento guidelines (below), as well as the following:
- Businesses that provide mail and shipping services.
- Educational institutions, including public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities provided that all such services maintain social distancing of six feet per person, to the extent possible.
- Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers.
- Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food but only for delivery or carry out.
- Businesses that supply products needed for those who work from home.
- Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support of supplies necessary to operate.
- Businesses that ship or deliver food.
- Home-based care for seniors, adults or children.
- Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities.
- Childcare facilities that provide services to enable those exempted from this Order to work as permitted. Such childcare must involve the same group of children, although there is no maximum number of children per group.
The Orange County Health Order further provides that all bars shall remain closed and all restaurant shall close for onsite dining. In addition, per the Order, it is “strongly recommended” that:
- All persons 65 years or older, or who have serious chronic medical conditions or have a compromised immune system should self-isolate.
- All businesses that remain open, shall enact Social Distancing (all persons remain at least 6 feet apart except for family members).
- Anyone exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate.
For a copy of the Orange County Health Order, please see the following link: https://www.ochealthinfo.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=114422.
For a copy of the announcement of the amended order, please see the following link: https://www.ochealthinfo.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=114385.
California employers with questions or in need of guidance regarding how COVID-19 and the impact on its operations, should contact legal counsel.