San Francisco revises its rules for universal face coverings again
On January 26, 2022, the City and County of San Francisco released an update Health Ordinance No. C19-07y, which discusses a number of rules issued in an effort to combat the continued spread of COVID-19. One strategy that affects most employers is a universal indoor mask mandate, which, effective February 1, 2022, is again subject to exemption, under certain circumstances. Masking exemptions were in place before the Omicron surge, but have been suspended effective December 30, 2021. The updated order renews mask exemptions, with some significant changes.
For the current mask exemption to apply, people inside the workplace must be: (i) “up to date” on vaccination (two weeks after completing the entire recommended initial vaccination series with a FDA cleared vaccine and one week after receiving a booster); (ii) “Fully Vaccinated” (two weeks after completing the entire recommended initial vaccination series with the FDA-cleared vaccine); or (iii) if not vaccinated, have proof of a recent negative test result. Additionally, no visitors can enter the workplace, among other requirements. The test must have been carried out within one day if it is an antigen test or within two days if it is a PCR test. Testing should not be done more than twice a week as long as each test is done at least three days apart.
Under the revised mask exemption, only people entering the workplace who are up to date with vaccinations can remove their mask in the workplace. Other fully vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals must wear masks at all times, subject to limited exceptions (eg, alone, while eating). Per the Cal/OSHA definition of epidemicpeople can only remove masks under this exemption if there has been no outbreak (currently defined as three or more cases of COVID-19 in an “exposed group” during a period of 14 days) in the past 30 days.
Most notably, the revised mask exemption continues to apply even if unvaccinated people enter the workplace, for example, if an employer chooses to accept documents from the unvaccinated person supporting a religious and medical exemption. to vaccination. the previous mask exemption made no exceptions unless everyone present was fully vaccinated. However, if an individual is not vaccinated for a purpose not based on a religious, medical, or age-related reason (eg, personal reasons); or if the unvaccinated person chooses not to be tested, the mask exemption does not apply and all persons entering the workplace must wear a mask.
People entering offices intermittently or occasionally for short periods (e.g. parcel couriers) do not need to provide proof of vaccination, but must wear a mask at all times. If a visitor is present in the workplace beyond an intermittent basis, everyone in the workplace must wear a mask.
San Francisco employers are encouraged to promote the use of tight-fitting masks – a tight-fitting N95, KN95, NF94, or surgical mask worn with a cloth mask over it to improve fit; cloth masks, scarves, ski masks, single layers of cloth, or masks with unfiltered one-way exhaust valves are not recommended.
San Francisco employers can review the revised version COVID-19 Health Order C19-07y FAQs for more details. In addition to changes to universal masking rules, the order addresses the permissive treatment of unvaccinated people due to religious beliefs or eligible medical reasons by certain businesses required to verify proof of vaccination, such as restaurants and gyms. It also revises the rules for indoor events attended by 500 or more people (Mega-Events) and sets new vaccination and booster requirements for people employed in high-risk and high-risk environments. San Francisco employers should consult with counsel before revising COVID-19 policies and procedures to ensure compliant implementation of any changes aligned with the revised health order.
©2022 Epstein Becker & Green, PC All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 33