Public Health Order Frequently Asked Questions

Last content update: 7/16/2021

 

Overview

UPDATE: On June 21, 2021, the County Health Officer issued a new order phasing out the Health Officer’s prior May 18, 2021 Order (“May 18 Order”).   For most businesses and governmental entities, the previous restrictions are no longer necessary because there are fewer cases of COVID-19 in the community and because the widespread vaccination of individuals in the county have provided important and effective protection against contracting COVID-19 and against severe COVID-19 illness. However, it remains critical that more people get vaccinated and that unvaccinated people continue to take appropriate safety measures. Therefore, while the June 21, 2021 Order (“June 21 Order”) rescinds the requirements of the May 18 Order for most businesses and governmental entities in the county, the following requirements remain in effect:

  • Businesses and entities that have not completed at least two rounds of ascertainment of their personnel’s ascertainment status as required by Section 9(c) of the May 18 Order must continue to comply with the May 18 Order’s ascertainment requirements until they have completed two rounds of ascertainment.
  • All businesses and entities must keep appropriate records to show that they have completed at least two rounds of ascertainment as required by Section 9(c) of the May 18 Order. Businesses and entities must keep these records for the duration of the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards imposed by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal/OSHA”) and codified at Title 8 of Section 3205 et seq. of the California Code of Regulations. 

The June 21 Order also requires individuals and entities to continue following applicable State public health orders, mandatory State guidance, and State laws related to COVID-19, including regulations from Cal/OSHA.      

Importantly, the June 21 Order strongly recommends that all eligible individuals get vaccinated against COVID-19, as that is the best way to protect against infection, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19.  The June 21 Order also makes the following additional recommendations:

  • Businesses and entities should strongly encourage their personnel to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, and should regularly request updated vaccination status information from those personnel who are not fully vaccinated;
  • Businesses and entities should consider moving operations outdoors, where there is significantly less risk of COVID-19 transmission;
  • Businesses and entities should prohibit all personnel who are not fully vaccinated from traveling for work to places where there are high rates of COVID-19, where there is wide circulation of variants of concern, or where community vaccination rates are below the average in the Bay Area.
  • Businesses and entities should require all personnel who are not fully vaccinated to get tested regularly for COVID-19, consistent with local, state, and federal guidelines.

The new order also rescinds the May 13, 2020 Order of the Health Officer Directing Hospitals and Skilled Nursing Facilities to Disclose Personal Protective Equipment Inventories.  All other COVID-19 Health Orders that are currently still in effect are not rescinded or modified by the June 21 Order.

 

Does the rescission of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy and the County’s May 18, 2021 Health Order mean there are no longer any COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County?

No. All individuals, businesses, and entities in Santa Clara County must follow applicable restrictions under the State Public Health Officer Order of June 11, 2021, the State’s Beyond the Blueprint for Industry and Business Sectors Guidance, the State’s Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings, the State’s COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, and any other applicable State COVID-19 regulation or guidance document.  In addition, businesses and other employers must comply with the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Standards requirements that apply to their employees. 

For more information regarding the State’s requirements, visit the State’s COVID-19 landing page.  This landing page links to the State’s Safely Reopening California, which provides information regarding the State’s face coverings rules and Cal/OSHA’s workplace safety rules.  The State’s COVID-19 landing page also links to its Vaccines webpage, where you can find and make an appoint to get vaccinated.  You may also call the State’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-422-4255 from Monday through Friday, 8am to 8pm, or Saturday, 8am to 5pm; or, you can email the State at [email protected].   You may also visit the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards website for more information about Cal/OSHA’s workplace safety rules regarding COVID-19.

Additionally, the County Health Officer has lifted all Mandatory Directives and has rescinded the May 18 Order, with two exceptions.  First, the Order’s vaccination ascertainment requirement remains in effect with respect to any business or government entity that has not yet completed two rounds of vaccine ascertainment.  For those businesses and governmental entities that are still covered by the ascertainment requirement, see the “Ascertainment of Vaccination Status of Employees” below for more information.  Second, all businesses and government entities must retain records to show that they have completed at least two rounds of ascertainment as required by the May 18 Order.

What are the current face covering requirements in Santa Clara County?

With cases of COVID-19 rising locally and increased circulation of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the County recommends that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places to ensure easy verification that all unvaccinated people are masked in those settings and as an extra precautionary measure for all.  This recommendation applies in addition to the State regulations described below that require masks indoors for all unvaccinated individuals and in certain circumstances for all. Health Officers will revisit this recommendation in the coming weeks as they continue to monitor transmission rates, hospitalizations, deaths, and increasing vaccination rates.

Further, individuals and businesses in Santa Clara County must also follow the State’s rules on face coverings.  The State’s Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings sets forth face covering requirements for all individuals in public settings and businesses.  More information regarding the State’s Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings is available at the State’s Face Coverings Q&A page.

Additionally, the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“Cal/OSHA ETS”) contains additional requirements regarding face coverings that businesses must comply with to protect their employees.  For more information regarding the Cal/OSHA ETS, you can visit the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions Page

Am I still required to maintain six feet of social distance from individuals outside my household?

No, there are no longer any State or County social distancing requirements.

 

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ASCERTAINMENT OF VACCINATION STATUS OF EMPLOYEES

All businesses and governmental entities are required to “complete two rounds” of ascertainment of vaccination status for their personnel. What does it mean to “complete” a round of ascertainment of vaccination status?

A business or governmental entity has completed an initial round of ascertainment of vaccination status of personnel when it has (1) received responses to a request for vaccination status from all of its employees, and (2) made a good-faith effort to obtain vaccination status from all non-employee personnel working onsite in its facilities.  With respect to a second or subsequent round of ascertainment, the business or governmental entity must receive a response from all of its employees who were not confirmed to be fully vaccinated during the prior round of ascertainment, and it must make a good-faith effort to obtain vaccination status from all non-employees working onsite in its facilities who were not previously confirmed to be fully vaccinated.

After completing two rounds of ascertainment of vaccination status, I hired new workers.  Do I need to ascertain their vaccination status?

You are no longer covered by the ascertainment of vaccination status requirement under the County’s May 18 Order, which has been rescinded.  However, employers that are covered by Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards “must record the vaccination status of any employee not wearing a face covering indoors.”  For more information, see the Cal/OSHA ETS FAQs here (under “Vaccines”).

Why are businesses and governmental entities required to complete two rounds of ascertainment of vaccination status and record the vaccination status of their workers?

Vaccines are the most effective way to reduce transmission of COVID-19, and to prevent people from getting sick or dying from COVID-19.  The rules that businesses and governmental entities must follow to protect workers from COVID-19 are different depending on whether a worker is vaccinated or not.  Businesses and governmental entities need to know the vaccination status of their workers so they can follow the rules, and so they can keep their workers, customers, and the community safe.

What should businesses and governmental entities do to determine vaccination status of their workers?

Businesses and governmental entities must complete two rounds of ascertainment of vaccination status to determine whether each of their employees (and any contractors or volunteers working in their facilities) is fully vaccinated or not. Businesses and governmental entities must have a record for each staff member as of the dates of ascertainment reflecting that person’s vaccination status.  The record may document a business’s or governmental entity’s review of documentation establishing vaccination status (e.g., the employee’s vaccine card), or the employee’s completed Certification of Vaccination Status. A template Certification of Vaccination Status is available here.

I have a worker who won’t tell me whether they are vaccinated? What do I do?

You must document that the worker declined to disclose their vaccination status, assume that they are not fully vaccinated, and follow all the rules that apply to workers who are not fully vaccinated.

What was the deadline for determining the vaccination status of my workers?

You were required to request and document the vaccination status of all personnel no later than June 1, 2021.  For workers who were not fully vaccinated or declined to disclose their vaccination status, you were required to request updated vaccination status every 14 days thereafter (e.g., June 15, June 29, July 13, etc.).  If you have not yet completed two rounds of ascertainment of vaccination status, you must complete the first round immediately and the second round 14 days thereafter.

Do businesses have to keep records of who is vaccinated and who is not?

Yes. Businesses and governmental entities must maintain appropriate records to demonstrate completion of two rounds of ascertainment pursuant to the County Health Officer’s May 18, 2021 Order for the duration of Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards.

What happens if I fail to complete two rounds of ascertainment of the vaccination status of my workers?

Because businesses and governmental entities have to follow different rules for vaccinated as opposed to unvaccinated employees, all businesses must complete two rounds of ascertainment of the vaccination status of their workers. Any business that fails to ask about and record the vaccination status of its workers is subject to enforcement, and may be required to pay fines of up to $5,000 per violation per day.

Am I required to complete two rounds of ascertainment of vaccination status for my remote workers, too?

You are required to complete two rounds of ascertainment of the vaccination status of all your workers who perform any work at a facility or worksite in the county. You are also strongly encouraged, but not required, to complete two rounds of ascertainment of the vaccination status of all your other workers.

Does HIPAA apply when an employer asks an employee for their vaccination status?

No.  HIPAA applies to certain entities, such as healthcare providers and health plans, and what protected health information they can share about their patients or members under what circumstances.  HIPAA does not govern what information employers may request from their employees. 

What confidentiality rules do employers need to follow when they collect and store information regarding employee vaccination status?

Generally, employers must treat this information the same way they treat other similar private information they receive from their employees, including, for example medical conditions for which they may request time off, etc. 

Do workers have to disclose their vaccination status to their employer?

Under current County rules, employers must complete two rounds of ascertainment of vaccination status, but employees may decline to provide that information. The sample Certification Form specifically includes that option for employees.  If an employee declines to provide their vaccination status, the employer should assume the employee may be unvaccinated and follow State and local requirements for unvaccinated employees.

Do employers have to provide information regarding their employees’ vaccination status to the County Public Health Department?

No, employers do not provide this information to the County.  Instead, they are required to collect it and have it available to demonstrate their compliance with this requirement. 

Under what circumstances would an employer have to share employee vaccination information?

Generally, employee vaccination information is treated as confidential, but can be shared in certain instances.  For example, an employer may be asked to demonstrate compliance with the requirement related to employee vaccination status if the County receives information suggesting that the employer has not complied.  The State Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) may also request documentation from an employer demonstrating that they have complied with all of the requirements specific to employees who are vaccinated versus unvaccinated, and knowing which employees are vaccinated will allow employers to comply with those requirements. 

What is the simplest way to comply with the requirement to determine employees’ vaccination status?

Compliance with this requirement takes only a few simple steps.  One simple way for a business to comply is by doing the following:

  1. Provide staff members a copy of the one-page form the County has provided to assist businesses in meeting this requirement.  It should take employees no more than a minute or two to fill out the form.
  2. Collect the forms and store them in the same way you store confidential employee information like documents requesting medical leave, reasonable accommodations, etc.
  3. Provide employees who are not vaccinated or declined to state whether they are vaccinated an information sheet on vaccination, which is available here.

I have a contractor who is doing work at my business.  Do I have to determine the vaccination status of all the contractors’ employees?

You can rely on contractors to complete two rounds of ascertainment of the vaccination status of their own employees, but you should confirm with your contractors that they have complied with this requirement.

I do not have any employees based in Santa Clara County.  However, some of my employees travel into the county infrequently for work.  Do I need to ascertain those employees’ vaccination status?

No.  You only have to determine vaccination status for workers who are based at worksites in Santa Clara County or who regularly work at worksites in the county.

I manage a non-profit with a large number of volunteers.  Some of these individuals volunteer regularly at our worksites in the county.  However, many of these people are one-time volunteers.  Do I have to ascertain the vaccination status for all of our volunteers?

You only have to complete two rounds of ascertainment of the vaccination status of volunteers who regularly work at worksites in the county.  Therefore, you would not have to ascertain the vaccination status for one-time volunteers.

My company owns a building in the county where our employees work.  We lease several floors to other businesses who have offices completely separate from my company’s office, other than common areas like the first-floor lobby and elevators.  Is my company required to ascertain the vaccination status of the employees of those separate businesses?

If your company leases office space to other businesses that are completely separate from your own company’s office, you do not have to ascertain the vaccination status of your tenants’ employees.  But the tenant employer is responsible for completing two rounds of ascertainment of the vaccination status of its own employees.

I manage a grocery store in the county, and we have a vendor onsite who runs a small coffee counter inside the store.  Do I have to ascertain the vaccination status of the employees of that coffee counter? 

Yes, because the coffee vendor regularly provides goods and services in your business’s worksite, your business must complete two rounds of ascertainment of the vaccination status of the vendor’s employees.  You can, however, rely on the vendor to determine its own employees’ vaccination status, if you confirm with the vendor that it has complied with this requirement. 

Sale representatives occasionally come into my business to market their products.  Does my office have to ascertain the vaccination status of these sales representatives?

If these  sales representatives do not work regularly in one of your offices, you are not obligated to ascertain their vaccination status.    

I requested vaccination status from all of my employees, but some of them did not respond by June 1.  Will I be fined?

So long as a business made  appropriate, good faith efforts to gather vaccination status information for its personnel by the June 1 deadline, and followed up with individuals who did not respond, the business will be considered in compliance with the requirement.  Businesses should be similarly diligent in gathering this information as they would be in gathering information needed to comply with other legal requirements applicable to businesses—e.g., employee time sheets, payroll records, and W-9 and W-4 forms.

 

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ACCESS AND FUNCTIONAL NEEDS

With some State and County COVID-19 rules still in effect, do businesses and public entities still need to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Yes. The Health Officer’s Order makes no changes to ADA requirements, and the ADA remains in full force countywide. Businesses and public entities must comply with their usual ADA obligations, even if they are making changes to their facilities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit here for further information on ADA requirements for businesses.

I use a wheelchair van or other adapted vehicle. Will I be able to use the County’s drive-up COVID-19 testing sites?

Yes. Drive-up testing sites can accommodate wheelchair vans and other adapted vehicles. Note that drive-up testing sites will generally ask you to remain inside your vehicle while you self-administer your test.

I use a wheelchair/powerchair or have another physical disability. Will I be able to use the County’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites?

Yes. Testing and vaccination sites are accessible for people with disabilities and those with other access or functional needs, and onsite staff are available to aid anyone who may need assistance.

I rely on public transportation or paratransit to get around. If I want to get tested for or vaccinated against COVID-19, how can I arrange transportation to a testing site?

Please see the County’s testing website and this flowchart for directions on how to secure transportation to a testing site. Similarly, please visit the County’s COVID-19 vaccine website for information about how to secure free door-to-door transportation to your vaccination appointment.  If you still have further questions, please contact the County’s Access and Functional Needs Coordinator at [email protected].

How is the County making sure that its communications about COVID-19 are accessible to people with language access or language processing needs?

The County is taking many steps to ensure that its communications are accessible to every member of the community. The Public Health Department’s entire COVID-19 website is fully translated into five different languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog), and postings include Alt Text functionality. The public may also use 711 for Hearing and Speech Relay Service.  The County has regularly conducted online presentations to share important information in a video-based format, and video press conferences include real-time ASL interpretation. The County has also designed signs, flyers, and posters that include informative graphics alongside text to ensure that they are as comprehensible as possible to all.

Does the County offer its COVID-19 materials in accessible formats (hard copies, large print, etc.)?

Yes. If you have an access or functional need and require the County’s COVID-19 materials in an accessible format, please contact the Access and Functional Needs Coordinator at [email protected] for assistance.

Do I need a doctor’s note to enter a business without a face covering if I have a medical condition or a disability that prevents me from wearing a face covering?

No. Businesses should not require you to present a doctor’s note once you explain that you cannot wear a face covering for medical or disability-related reasons. Please see the State’s Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings for more information.

I run a retail business, and I’m not comfortable allowing anyone into my store without a face covering. What can my business do to accommodate shoppers who can’t wear face coverings for medical or disability-related reasons?

If a customer is unable to wear a face covering for a medical or disability-related reason, retailers may not deny entry to that customer just because they are not wearing a face covering. But retailers are strongly encouraged to offer accommodations to these customers so that they can access the retailer’s services without entering the business facility. Accommodations may include things like offering delivery services, or accepting customers’ shopping lists over the phone or at curbside and bringing the items outside to the customer so they don’t need to enter the store.

I’m not comfortable going shopping in person because I am still not fully vaccinated and cannot wear a face covering for a medical or disability-related reason. Are there any resources to help me with my shopping?

Delivery services offered by retail and grocery stores are good options for people who are not comfortable shopping in person. There are also free resources, like helpinghands.community, a community-based non-profit that provides delivery and other support services.

I cannot wear a face mask for a medical or disability-related reason. Am I required to wear one?

Face coverings are an important tool  for stopping the spread of COVID-19, especially for those who are not yet fully vaccinated, and anyone who is able to wear a face covering safely must do so when required by the State’s Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings.  However, where face coverings are required, there are exemptions for persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering (including people who would be unable to remove a face covering without assistance), and for persons who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired.

I have a question related to access and functional needs. Where can I go for assistance?

The following resources are available to people with questions related to access and functional needs:

What steps can I take to be as prepared as possible in case of an emergency?

Emergency preparedness is important for everyone, and it is especially vital for people with access and functional needs who may need additional preparations to stay safe during an emergency. All County residents are encouraged to sign up for notifications, which is a free and easy way to get emergency alerts sent directly to your cell phone or mobile device, landline, or email. You can sign up for AlertSCC notifications here. In addition, the County Office of Emergency Management’s website has resources to help all County residents design a disaster safety plan for their families and loved ones. The following are more specific preparedness guides for people with access and functional needs:

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