Legal Update

Nov 18, 2020

Western States Tighten Restrictions to Curb COVID-19

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Seyfarth Synopsis: Along with other locations across the country, California, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico imposed sweeping restrictions and new guidance to contain the surge in COVID-19 infections. The latest round of mandates includes travel advisories, rolling back reopening plans, and stricter face covering requirements.

Travel Advisories

On November 13, 2020, California, Oregon, and Washington jointly issued travel advisories recommending a 14-day quarantine upon entering these states or returning home to these states after out-of-state (or international) travel. The advisory does not apply to essential travel (including for work or study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, medical care and safety and security). The West Coast states also urge their residents to stay local and limit interactions to their immediate households. Many local jurisdictions followed suit, imposing similar travel advisories focused on travel outside their immediate geographic regions (e.g., San Francisco Bay Area).  

Reopening Restrictions

California - On November 16, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that twenty-eight California counties will revert back to Tier 1 (Purple/Widespread), the most restrictive of the four-tier reopening system established in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. This regression means that certain businesses in the majority of California’s larger counties will need to immediately curtail or shut down their operations. At Tier 1, non-essential offices can only operate remotely, while many businesses such as retail, restaurants, entertainment venues, and gym and fitness centers must reduce their operating capacity or limit their operations to outdoor only. The Blueprint for a Safer Economy includes a tool that shows what restrictions are in place across different industries and counties.

In addition to the slew of counties that returned back to the most restrictive tier, several counties reverted back to Tier 2 (Red/Substantial), including San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo.

The new limits on California counties will remain in effect until further notice.

As always, businesses should ensure compliance with more restrictive local orders. 

Washington - On November 15, 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee again amended his previously issued Proclamation 20-25, which proclaimed a state of emergency associated with the spread of COVID-19. Proclamation 20-25.8 rolls back county-by-county phased reopenings in response to the spike of new COVID-19 cases per day in Washington. Businesses and services facing new regulations under this proclamation include professional services, long term-care facilities, personal care services, restaurant and bars, museums, gyms, zoos, and movie theatres. K-12 schools, higher education, health care, and childcare are exempt from new restrictions and should instead follow the prior guidelines.

The proclamation became effective at midnight on Monday, November 16, for all counties, and will last until December 14, 2020, at 11:59 PM, unless extended.

Oregon - Starting November 18, 2020, through December 2, 2020, Oregon will be under a two-week freeze, during which many businesses will be required to shut down again, or reduce capacity or limit operations. All businesses must mandate remote work to the greatest extent possible and close offices to the public. Affected businesses include retail stores and malls, grocery stores and pharmacies, food and drink establishments, long-term health care facilities, gyms and fitness centers, faith-based organizations, recreational facilities, and venues that host indoor or outdoor events. The two-week freeze, however, does not apply to several sectors such as personal services, outdoor recreation and sports, and K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The Oregon Health Authority is expected to release updated sector-specific guidance this week.

New Mexico - Similar to Oregon, New Mexico issued a new statewide order that temporarily suspends certain business activities for two weeks. From November 16, 2020, through November 30, 2020, all non-essential businesses must close in-person operations and conduct businesses solely through remote setting. Essential businesses are allowed to remain open, but must minimize their operations and in-person workforces to the greatest extent possible. The order also imposes new capacity limits, or closure requirements, affecting essential retail stores, places of lodging, food and drink establishments, outdoor recreational facilities, state-run museums, indoor malls, private education institutions, and places of worship, with many facilities being limited to twenty-five percent of capacity or seventy-five people, whichever is less. Furthermore, New Mexico, at its discretion, may require any business frequented by members of the public (including essential businesses, retail stores, places of lodging, and food and drink establishments) to immediately close for a period of fourteen days if four or more positive COVID-19 cases occur at an establishment within a two-week period.

Face Covering Mandates

California - In conjunction with the measures to slow or reverse reopening, California also issued new face covering guidance that imposes more stringent requirements. Effective November 16, 2020, all individuals in California must wear face coverings when they are outside of their homes, except in a few limited scenarios. For individuals who are exempt from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition, but whose job necessitates regular contact with others, the guidance requires them to wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.

New Mexico ­- Under the new statewide order, New Mexico strengthened its face covering requirements by prohibiting the use of masks with vents, and requiring all individuals to wear face coverings in public settings except when eating or drinking. Furthermore, the order requires all essential retail stores to forbid a person without a face covering from entering the premises unless the person presents a written exemption from a healthcare provider.

For more information on best practices for reopening businesses, and to stay up-to-date on both state and local COVID-19 developments, be sure to visit Seyfarth’s COVID-19 resource center, or contact one of our experienced attorneys directly.