Amid Surge in Omicron, California Reimposes COVID-19 Safeguards

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) over the past several weeks has taken a series of steps to mitigate the surge in COVID-19 cases, including those cased by the Omicron variant, throughout the state. Below, we highlight these changes in guidance.

Booster Doses Required for Certain Occupations

Just prior to the winter holidays, state officials announced updates to existing state public health officer orders requiring certain workers in the state to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster. Specifically, health care workers and employees in high-risk congregate settings (e.g., correctional health settings, nursing homes) will be required to receive their booster by February 1, 2022. Health care workers that have not yet received a booster dose must test for COVID-19 twice weekly until they are “up to date” on their vaccine regimen.

The Governor’s Office issued the following press statement about the update in guidance, and the following orders have been amended: health care workers; correctional health facility workers; and adult care facilities and direct care workers.

Hospital and Nursing Home Visitation

State officials additionally updated guidance for visitation at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities just prior to the New Year. The guidance takes effect today, January 7, and supersedes existing requirements for visitors in these settings. The order, issued by CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón, amends a previous visitation order from this past fall by requiring visitors to hospitals and nursing facilities to be boosted.

For unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated persons, indoor visits can occur at hospital settings with documentation of a negative test or recovery. In nursing facilities, visitors without a booster dose are eligible only for outdoor visitation with documentation of a negative test or recovery. The visitation order remains in effect through February 7, 2022, and is available here.

Mega Event Thresholds

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in large event settings, such as concerts and sporting events, CDPH last week updated its guidance for mega events. The updated guidance lowers the occupancy thresholds of 10,000 attendees to 5,000 for outdoor events and 1,000 attendees to 500 for indoor events. Venues must be in full compliance with the order by January 15, 2022, though state officials are urging venues to adopt the protocols as quickly as possible.

Under the updated guidance, attendees must provide either proof of vaccination, a negative antigen COVID-19 test within one day of the event, or a negative PCR test within two days of the event. The updated mega event guidance is available here.

Isolation & Quarantine Guidance

Following an unanticipated move by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to shorten the isolation and quarantine period for the general population in late December, California similarly updated its isolation and quarantine guidance. However, given the uncertainty associated with the Omicron variant, CDPH deviated from the federal government by adding additional testing recommendations to exit isolation and quarantine and improved masking measures to protect Californians from the virus.

CDPH’s updated isolation and quarantine guidance is available here.