On July 16, 2021, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department revised its public health order to require face coverings in most indoor settings regardless of vaccination status. This change reinforces the quickly evolving nature of the pandemic and reflects a steady increase in COVID-19 cases since the state reopened. For many employers in LA County, this may cause confusion especially after last month’s California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 emergency temporary standards.
As a refresher, the COVID-19 emergency temporary standard changed workplace face covering rules to depend on an employee’s vaccination status. If the employer verified that the employee is fully vaccinated, then the employer may allow the employee to remove their face covering in all indoor settings. However, as part of the standard, Cal/OSHA has always directed employers that if their local rules are stricter than the emergency temporary standard, then employers must follow the stricter rules. This is where the LA County face covering mandate enters the picture.
The renewed mandate, which went into effect on July 17, 2021, requires face coverings regardless of vaccination status in the following circumstances:
- All indoor public settings, venues, gatherings and businesses;
- On public transit;
- In transportations hubs;
- In K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings;
- Healthcare settings;
- Correctional and detention facilities; and
For employers operating within LA County, this means that all employees must continue to wear face coverings indoors unless eligible for one of the narrow exceptions such as a medical disability or because the use of a face covering is infeasible while performing certain job duties.
Employers operating outside of LA County must continue to follow the current COVID-19 emergency temporary standard; however, LA County’s renewed face covering mandate may just be the beginning of other counties following suit if COVID-19 cases continue to increase. As of publication, several northern California counties, including a coalition ofSan Francisco Bay area counties, Sacramento County and Yolo County, all issued recommendations to wear face coverings indoors around the same time LA County revised its public health order. So, employers must continue to remain vigilant regarding their local county public health orders as these may change the workplace rules yet again.