COVID in California: State Rolls Back Reopening Plans

By Kris Janisch
Published July 14, 2020

COVID in California: State Rolls Back Reopening Plans

As California takes a step backward in its reopening plan, we examine the latest, as well as industry guidelines.

With cases of the coronavirus continuing to rise in California, the state is rolling back its reopening plan.

Gov. Gavin Newsome on Monday, July 13, announced statewide plans to close indoor operations of:

  • Movie theaters and family entertainment
  • Zoos
  • Cardrooms
  • Restaurants
  • Wineries

Bars, meanwhile, must cease operating altogether.

Though the latest announcement covers the entirety of California, the state had taken a county-by-county approach to its reopening plan during the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement this week also included further closures of indoor operations in 30 counties.

Hard hit by COVID-19, California has taken steps to attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Earlier this month, Newsome announced a “Wear A Mask” initiative aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus to help spur the reopening of its economy.

“We all have a responsibility to slow the spread. It is imperative — and required — that Californians protect each other by wearing masks and practicing physical distancing when in public so we can fully reopen our economy,” Newsom said in a release. “We all need to stand up, be leaders, show we care and get this done.”

Despite the news Monday, the state has reopened parts of its economy. While essential services — such as gas stations, grocery stores and banks — have been open, California was moving into Stage 3 of its reopening plan in many counties. Still, employers should check with the state’s website and local officials to determine which types of businesses can operate in which counties.

California Reopening

Before we examine industry-specific guidance, there are some blanket protocols to note before any facility opens in California:

  • Perform a detailed risk assessment and create a site-specific protection plan
  • Train employees on how to limit the spread of the coronavirus
  • Set individual control measures and screenings
  • Disinfect work and customer areas
  • Establish physical distancing guidelines

California has established a Monitoring List for its counties. If cases exceed certain parameters, limitations on businesses increase, as we saw Monday.

California Reopening: Industries

California has provided reopening guidance and checklists by industry. The list is comprehensive and offers resources specific to each.

The guidelines include standard language about wearing masks, cleaning, employee training, social distancing, etc.

Below are a few of the categories and highlights of California’s reopening guidance for employers.


  • Consider offering workers who request modified duties options that minimize their contact with customers and other employees (e.g., managing inventory or managing administrative needs through telework)
  • Stagger breaks
  • Reassign lockers or limit/stagger locker use
  • Place additional limitations on the number of workers in enclosed areas
  • Close breakrooms, use barriers, or increase distance between tables/chairs to separate workers and discourage congregating during breaks
  • Create outdoor break areas if possible


  • GovDocs Paid Leave demoEnsure any independent contractors, temporary, or contract workers at the facility are properly trained in COVID-19 prevention policies and have necessary supplies and personal protective equipment
  • Conduct temperature and/or symptom screenings for all workers at the beginning of their shift and any vendors, contractors or others entering the establishment
  • Employers must provide (and ensure) workers use all required protective equipment, including eye protection and gloves where necessary
  • When office supplies must be shared, disinfect between shifts or uses, whichever is more frequent


Employers looking for information on retail reopening guidance should note that this category doesn’t include personal services such as beauty salons, but does include bookstores, clothing stores, florists, home and furnishing stores and others.

The guidance includes:

  • Regularly evaluate the establishment for compliance with the plan and document and correct deficiencies identified
  • If requiring self-screening at home, ensure that screening was performed prior to the worker leaving the home for their shift and follows CDC guidelines
  • Employees must be provided and use protective equipment when offloading and storing delivered goods. Workers should inspect six deliveries and perform disinfection measures prior to storing goods in warehouses and facilities when there are signs of tampering
  • Equip customer entrances and exits, checkout stations, customer changing rooms with proper sanitation products, including hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes

Restaurants (dine in)

  • Encourage takeout and delivery whenever possible
  • Employers should consider when the use of disposable gloves may be helpful to supplement frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer
  • Dishwashers should use equipment to protect the eyes, nose and mouth, using protective glasses, goggles, or a face shield in addition to a face covering; dishwashers must be provided impermeable aprons and change frequently
  • Guests and visitors should be screened for temperature and/or symptoms upon arrival, asked to use hand sanitizer, and to wear a face covering when not eating or drinking


As we have noted before on Employment Law News, the wheels of government are turning much faster than normal during the coronavirus pandemic.

States are moving to reopen their economies in stages, which comes with it many new requirements for employers to remain compliant.

Whether it’s calculating the square footage at your retail store, defining entrances and exits, or staggering shifts for workers, there are a host of regulations to keep up with. And each state has a slightly different approach.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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