June 18, 2021
Dear Superintendents and School Leaders,

Yesterday, the California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board moved to adopt revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for employers and employees. The revised ETS make several changes to the previous COVID-19 emergency regulations to align with the guidance released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) last week as well as address concerns raised by a number of stakeholders that the ETS was overly burdensome.
Following the board’s action, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to allow the revisions to take effect immediately.

According to a frequently asked questions document from the California Department of Industrial Relations, the important changes to the ETS are:
  • Fully vaccinated employees without symptoms do not need to be tested or quarantined after close contacts with COVID-19 cases unless they have symptoms.
  • No face covering requirements outdoors (except during outbreaks), regardless of vaccination status, though workers should be trained on CDPH recommendations for outdoor use of face coverings.
  • Employers may allow fully vaccinated employees not to wear face coverings indoors, but must document their vaccination status. There are some settings where CDPH requires face coverings regardless of vaccination status. During outbreaks, all employees must wear face coverings indoors and outdoors when 6 feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Employers must provide unvaccinated employees with approved respirators for voluntary use when working indoors or in a vehicle with others, upon request.
  • Employers may not retaliate against employees for wearing face coverings.
  • No physical distancing or barrier requirements remain, regardless of employee vaccination status, with the following exceptions:
  • Employers must evaluate whether it is necessary to implement physical distancing and barriers during an outbreak (three or more cases in an exposed group of employees).
  • Employers must implement physical distancing and barriers during a major outbreak (20 or more cases in an exposed group of employees).
  • No physical distancing requirements whatsoever in employer-provided housing and transportation regulations.
  • Where all employees are vaccinated in employer-provided housing and transportation, employers are exempt from those regulations. 
  • Employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency, and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems.

The revised ETS replace the emergency regulations that were adopted by the board back in November 2020 and apply to all employers and employees. However, we are still waiting for additional guidance specific to the school setting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to release updated guidance for schools regarding the 2021-22 school year in the coming weeks, and we anticipate additional state guidance once the CDC acts.

Thank you for all you are doing during these unprecedented times. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or need support.


Dr. Paul Gothold
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools
phone: 858-295-6641