Written by Susan Kohn Ross
California Governor Newsom and State public health officials announced significant changes to COVID restrictions, effective November 17, 2020, as the rise in virus-related illnesses and deaths skyrockets. Specifically, California employs a color-coded tier system with the severity of the virus outbreak dictating into which tier a county falls, affecting the extent to which businesses may operate. The color coding is purple (widespread), red (substantial), orange (moderate) and yellow (minimal). As of the writing of this article, 28 counties moved back into the purple tier, 12 back into the red tier, and 2 back into the orange tier. It appears only 2 counties (Mariposa and Alpine) remain in the yellow or lowest risk tier.
Given widespread swaths of the state are now colored purple, these counties will be under the most restrictions. Seeking to address the rapidly changing situation, the State will now update its tier rating of any given location in as close to real time as possible, instead of the earlier weekly schedule. Counties are now required to implement any needed changes the day after any tier (or sector) changes are announced by the State. To this point, it does not appear any of the major counties have updated their websites, although that may come soon.
Explaining why some businesses and activities may remain open while others must close, the State’s website explains, those which cause a lower-risk are permitted to stay open. The situation is described as:
“An activity or business’s tier depends on whether it can:
• Accommodate mask wearing at all times (for example, eating and drinking requires removing masks)
• Allow physical distance between individuals from different households
• Limit the number of people per square foot
• Limit time that an individual is at the business or activity
• Limit time of exposure
• Limit mixing of people from different households
• Limit amount of physical interactions of visitors/patrons
• Increase airflow (such as operating outdoors or opening windows and doors)
• Limit activities that are known to increase virus spread (like singing, shouting and heavy breathing)”
See https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/ for more details. What this should mean is that if you are in a county where guidelines have been issued for the reopening of your business, following those guidelines should allow you to continue to keep your business open. That having been said, the expectation is that businesses most impacted by this round of changes are likely to be those which provide face-to-face service to the public, which is why monitoring any changes published by the county and locality in which you operate is critical.
The California Department of Public Health updated its face covering guidance yesterday as well. A copy can be found here- https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx – and clearly states when individuals are exempt. Otherwise, wearing a mask is required.
The rule remains the same – check the State’s website first, then compare its requirements to those restrictions/guidelines published by the county in which you operate, and then check for any additional local restrictions.