The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued new guidelines for all healthcare workers and long-term care workers, requiring them to be fully vaccinated by September 30, 2021. This new guideline supersedes Governor Newsom’s order last month, giving healthcare workers the option to provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing. The healthcare mandate is stricter than Newsom’s previous order! 

Healthcare workers are being scrutinized for vaccination status and are being hit with a barrage of different mandates from their employers following Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) and following the existing statewide mandates. Though the laws and mandates regarding COVID-19 are in constant flux, we want to inform you of what’s coming down the pipeline:

Cal/OSHA Requirements

The following are Cal/OSHA rules, which remain unchanged since June 17, 2021. 

  • Fully vaccinated employees without symptoms do not need to be tested or quarantined after exposure to COVID-19 unless they are symptomatic. 
  • Employees are no longer required to wear masks outdoors except during an outbreak. 
  • An employer is not obligated to require employees to submit proof of being fully vaccinated. 
  • An employee has the right to decline to state if they are vaccinated or not. In that case, the employer must treat the employee as unvaccinated and must not take disciplinary or discriminatory action against the employee. 
  • For employees who are vaccinated, employees must submit some proof of vaccination. Examples include vaccine cards, documents showing vaccine status, or self-attestation. 
  • Employees do not need to be fully vaccinated to work and do not need to provide documentation proving they are fully vaccinated. 

California State Requirements

On August 5, 2021, the CDPH released a State Public Health Officer Order requiring all healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by September 30, 2021, i.e., one dose from Johnson & Johnson or two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. You are considered a healthcare worker if you work in any of the following facilities:

  • General Acute Care Hospitals
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (including Subacute Facilities)
  • Intermediate Care Facilities
  • Acute Psychiatric Hospitals 
  • Adult Day Health Care Centers
  • Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and PACE Centers
  • Ambulatory Surgery Centers
  • Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospitals
  • Clinics & Doctor Offices (including behavioral health, surgical)
  • Congregate Living Health Facilities
  • Dialysis Centers
  • Hospice Facilities
  • Pediatric Day Health and Respite Care Facilities
  • Residential Substance Use Treatment and Mental Health Treatment Facilities

Workers may be exempt from the vaccination requirements only by providing the operator of the facility a declination form, signed by the individual stating either of the following: (1) the worker is declining vaccination based on Religious Beliefs, or (2) the worker is excused from receiving any COVID-19 vaccine due to Qualifying Medical Reasons. 

A Qualified Medical Reasons exemption requires employees to provide their employer a written statement signed by a physician, nurse practitioner, or other licensed medical professional practicing under the license of a physician stating that the individual qualifies for the exemption (but the statement should not describe the underlying medical condition or disability) and indicating the probable duration of the worker’s inability to receive the vaccine (or if the duration is unknown or permanent, so indicate). Exempted workers must either submit to weekly or twice weekly testing, depending on the workplace and wear an N95 mask or equivalent while at work.

How to Be Prepared

Healthcare workers are facing extreme restrictions by the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”). Though Cal/OSHA applies to all workers, the CDPH has especially tightened the boundaries for healthcare workers. Healthcare workers may not be given the same leeway as regular workers due to their higher risks of exposure in the workplace. 

With the approval of the booster vaccine shot (colloquially known as the “third vaccine”), these regulations may change. Currently, the only two booster shots that the FDA has approved are produced by Moderna and Pfizer. The third vaccine dose does not affect a persons fully vaccinated status and does not count towards full vaccination. Employers also are not required to mandate employees to receive the third dose. However, that only means Employers MAY ask, at their discretion, to require you to submit to a third vaccination. 

These are significant changes affecting both the employer and employee. Although times continue to be unpredictable, who you turn to for legal guidance should not be. Uplift Law is here to help you. Contact us today!