With Cases Surging, Governor Assigns the Vast Majority of Counties to Most Restrictive Tier


On November 16, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered that California pull the “emergency brake” in the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” reopening plan, with the vast majority of counties assigned to the most restrictive “Widespread” (purple) “Tier 1.”  According to the Governor’s news release, these changes, which will take effect tomorrow, November 17, are implemented in light of a surge of cases across the State.  With this wide-scale adjustment for county tier assignments, twenty-eight (28) counties, including all counties in Southern California, most Bay Area counties, and Sacramento County, have been ordered to Tier 1.  Previously, many counties within those locales had been assigned to less restrictive tiers.  Under the new, more restrictive tier assignments, the only Bay Area counties that are not in Tier 1 are San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin, each of which is assigned to Tier 2.

The overhaul of county tier assignments has far-reaching consequences regarding what may remain open in the affected counties.  One restriction that is likely to affect employers statewide is that any county in Tier 1 or 2 (which, per the Governor’s news release, is now over 94.1% of the State’s population) may not have any in-person office operations for non-essential businesses.  All office workers for non-essential businesses in those counties may only work remotely.

Public and private schools which opened while their county was in Tiers 2-4 may remain open even if the county reverts to Tier 1.  Exceptions allowing schools to open for small group cohorts or pursuant to a waiver (for elementary schools) also remain in place for now, subject to further orders of the Governor and/or state and/or county health officials.

Pursuant to the Governor’s news release, “this change is effective tomorrow [November 17, 2020].” (emphasis added.)    While updates to county tier assignments were previously announced weekly, those changes will now be announced on a daily basis.  Counties may be moved back more than one tier if indicated by the data, and restrictions on business operations will be implemented the day after any such change is announced.

The governor’s news release further states that “California is also strengthening its face covering guidance to require individuals to wear a mask whenever outside their home, with limited exceptions.”  To read the Governor’s full news release, click here.  For a direct link to the State’s COVID-19 website, including the map of county tier assignments, click here.

Graphic source: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/#county-status (last accessed November 16, 2020)

AALRR will continue to monitor this development.  Employers should take care to comply with all local and State restrictions and guidelines.  If you have any questions about whether or how the county reassignments apply to you, or what you need to do to stay in compliance with COVID-19 laws, orders, and regulations, please contact the authors or other attorneys at AALRR who can provide advice and counsel specific to your particular circumstances.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process.

©2020 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo



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