Seyfarth Synopsis: On May 21, 2021, California health officials confirmed that the State’s highly anticipated June 15 reopening date is a go. With this announcement comes the long-awaited release of details about exactly what restrictions are poised to be lifted—which looks to be just about everything, at least on a State level. (Local restrictions may yet apply.)
Ditching the Blueprint And Aligning with the CDC
The past few weeks have seen most states lift many remaining COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, California residents awaited the moment when the State would provide details regarding its anticipated June 15 economic reopening.
That moment finally came on May 21, 2021, when California health officials announced the reopening was on track and will bring drastic changes to restrictions.
The biggest change is the retirement of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework and removal of capacity limits and physical distancing requirements, regardless of setting. This means businesses across all sectors will be permitted to open at full capacity, if they so choose.
Other changes include full alignment with the CDC’s guidance regarding face coverings (which differ for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals) and lifting all restrictions on travel outside the state (with a note that any future travel restrictions will also be in alignment with the CDC).
Additionally, California will not require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to engage in any activities, though individual businesses may still choose to do so (and some counties have imposed vaccine-status related requirements). Nonetheless, the State plans to keep recommendations for such verifications in place for “mega events” (outdoor events with 10,000+ people and or indoor events with 5,000+ people).
Location Is Still Everything
California’s plans to reopen its economy will almost certainly mean a significant portion of the State will follow suit. However, it is important to remember that individual counties and cities can still impose their own stricter precautions, and businesses generally must follow whatever is the strictest set of applicable guidelines.
Some counties have already announced their plans to align with the State’s updated reopening plans and guidance, but some have not yet addressed the issue, indicating that they may opt for a more gradual approach to lifting local restrictions. Businesses operating in counties that still have higher infection levels will want to watch closely for any tighter restrictions that may remain in place, particularly around those requiring or encouraging continued remote work where possible.
What About Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)?
As previously reported, Cal/OSHA proposed revisions to its ETS on May 7, 2021. In the wake of the CDC’s May 13, 2021 updated mask guidance, Cal/OSHA held off on making proposed changes at its May 20, 2021 meeting. Cal/OSHA is now preparing new proposed revisions to the ETS, and intends to make an updated proposal available for review by May 28, 2021. We expect that any new requirements may more closely align with the CDC’s mask guidance, and will be issued by the slated June 15, 2021 reopening date.
Meanwhile, employers must still comply with any restrictions mandated by Cal/OSHA, and must continue to abide by the November 2020 ETS (and associated guidance) until further binding guidance is issued.
There are still many moving pieces and uncertainties as California moves towards its plan to reopen next month. If you need any assistance with your workplace safety planning, or have questions about requirements related to reopening or expanding operations in adherence with State and local restrictions, Seyfarth’s Workplace Solutions is here to help with these and other COVID-19 related questions.
Edited by Coby Turner