California to Strictly Enforce State Public Health Order to Protect Healthcare Workers in High-Risk Settings
The California Department of Public Health announced that they will continue to strictly implement all of California's required healthcare directives about COVID-19, including the Department’s State Order issued on July 26, 2021, to protect health care workers in high-risk settings.
From August 9, 2021, all healthcare workers working in Acute Health Care and Long-Term Care Settings (General Acute Care Hospitals, Skilled Nursing Facilities, Intermediate Care Facilities), High-Risk Congregate Settings (Adult and Senior Care Facilities, Homeless Shelters, State and Local Correctional Facilities and Detention Centers), and Other Health Care Settings (Acute Psychiatric Hospitals, Adult Day Health Care Centers, Adult Day Programs Licensed by the California Department of Social Services, and more) will be required to verify vaccine status of all their workers.
Proof of Vaccination
According to the CDPH Guidance for Vaccine Records Guidelines & Standards, only the following modes may be used as proof of vaccination:
- COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control & Prevention or WHO Yellow Card) which includes the name of the person vaccinated, type of vaccine provided, and the date when the last dose was administered); or
- A photo of a Vaccination Record Card as a separate document; or
- A photo of the client's Vaccination Record Card stored on a phone or electronic device; or
- Documentation of COVID-19 vaccination from a health care provider; or
- A digital record that includes a QR code that when scanned by a SMART Health Card reader displays to the reader client name, date of birth, vaccine dates, and vaccine type: or
- Documentation of vaccination from other contracted employers who follow these vaccination records guidelines and standards.
The California Department of Public Health also expects facilities to have a system in place to document the vaccination status of workers and a method to determine which employees have been vaccinated or are exempt from being vaccinated. Workers who are partially vaccinated and those who fail to show any of the above-mentioned proof of vaccination will be considered "unvaccinated."
Use of Respirators and Surgical Masks
In addition, the Department’s State Order mandates health care facilities to strictly adhere to CDPH Masking Guidance. They also need to strictly comply with California's occupational health and safety standards, especially when it comes to Aerosol Transmissible Diseases.
Under Acute Health Care and Long-Term Care Settings, the use of respirators is required by the California Code of Regulations. Facilities need to provide their unvaccinated employees with respirators at no cost, and workers must receive the proper training and education on how to properly wear respirators and how to perform seal checks.
Under High-Risk Congregate Settings, the California Code of Regulations does not require the use of respirators but facilities must provide their unvaccinated workforce with FDA-approved surgical masks. Workers are required to wear surgical masks indoors especially when in close contact with other workers, patients, and the general public.
COVID-19 Testing Requirements
Under Acute Health Care and Long-Term Care Settings, unvaccinated workers are required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing. They are free to choose between an antigen or molecular test but need to be tested at least twice weekly. Any PCR (molecular) or antigen test needs to be authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
Under High-Risk Congregate Settings and Other Health Care Settings, unvaccinated workers are also required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing. But, instead of twice a week, workers are only required to do the test once a week. Any PCR (molecular) or antigen test also needs to be authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
For all other facilities, diagnostic screening testing for unvaccinated workers is currently not required. However, the Department notes that while the State Order does not require diagnostic screening tests for unvaccinated workers, they highly encourage facilities to do so. This is to facilitate early detection of COVID-19 cases and timely implementation of containment protocols.
Legal Assistance for Health Care Facilities
Health care facilities are expected to comply with all these rules and regulations not only to protect their workforce from COVID-19 but also to prevent incurring hefty fines for non-compliance. If you have any questions about the State Order or if you need legal assistance in complying with the Department of Public Health’s guidelines, it is wise to seek help from an experienced law firm who is well-versed with all the existing regulations regarding California’s COVID-19 containment protocols.
Davtyan Law is a full-service, California law firm that specializes in employment law. With decades of experience in the industry, you can count on their team of expert attorneys to provide you with the legal representation and guidance that will help your facility not only survive but thrive in this current climate.