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Due to State of Emergency, California Limits Enforcement of Regulatory Requirements for Hospitals and Other Facilities

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, California has taken the extraordinary action of limiting the regulatory enforcement of most licensed health facility requirements.

On March 15, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-27-20 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to further define his March 4, 2020 State of Emergency declaration. The order, effective immediately, covers several healthcare related matters.

Regulatory Agencies To Focus on Vulnerable Individuals and Serious Health and Safety Issues

The order requires the Department of Social Services, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Department of Public Health to focus on the most vulnerable individuals and the “most serious health and safety issues at licensed facilities.” This includes:

  • Focusing on providing “technical assistance and supporting compliance with core health and safety requirements for caregivers and the cared for;”
  • Immediately identifying facilities and other “sites housing populations who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19;”
  • Redirecting resources to those facilities;
  • Having Department and Division staff primarily focus “on providing technical assistance and support to have a maximum effect to address the risk of COVID-19;”
  • Focusing “enforcement activities where there are allegations of the most serious violations impacting health and safety.”

California Health and Human Services Agency to Develop Alternatives to Support Home Care

The Governor’s order also requires the California Health and Human Services agency to consult with counties and with representatives of labor organizations and consumers in order to leverage programs to support the home isolation of “vulnerable Californians, including seniors and those with serious chronic underlying health conditions.

First Responders and Other Health Care Workers Who Are Asymptomatic Are Authorized To Continue Working

The order directs the Emergency Medical Services Authority, Department of Social Services, and the Department of Public Health to “authorize first responders, health and human services care providers and workers who are asymptomatic to continue working during the period of this emergency” as long as those workers are taking precautions to prevent transmission.

Expect Further Guidance From the Departments and Divisions

California facilities and others affected by Governor Newsom’s order should expect further guidance from the regulatory agencies. For example, on March 20, the California Department of Public Health issued three All Facility Letters: one that notified hospitals of a “temporary waiver of regulatory requirements,” while detailing those statutory and regulatory requirements with which hospitals are still required to comply; one that “provides guidance for adult day health centers (ADHCs) to mitigate and prevent the transmission of COVID-19”; and one that provides guidance for prioritizing patients for COVID-19 testing. On March 21, the Department of Social Services announced the suspension of all annual inspections to allow the Department to focus its resources on “containing and mitigating COVID-19 impacts.” This is in addition to guidance that these agencies and others have been issuing prior to the Governor’s announcement.

In this evolving climate, California facilities should continue to carefully monitor the guidance provided by their applicable state and federal regulatory agencies.

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