State and Local Mandates

State and Local COVID-19 Health and Safety Mandates

California Department of Public Health:

Orange County Health Care Agency:

State of Emergency and Executive Orders*
  • The Governor has declared a state of emergency under the California Emergency Services Act (Government Code section 8550). Under the California Emergency Services Act, the Governor may lawfully issue executive orders to address the emergency. Current executive orders require that residents of California, including school districts, comply with mandatory directives issued by the CDPH and local health officers.
  • State and Federal courts have upheld the Governor’s authority and CDPH’s authority to issue mandates that address COVID-19 under the Emergency Services Act and the Health and Safety Code.
  • Government Code section 8665 makes it a misdemeanor for any person to violate, refuse, or willfully neglect to obey an executive order. Violation of lawful executive orders could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 6 months.
  • A statute, regulation, lawfully issued executive order or CDPH order/mandate that requires something to be done in the school setting creates a mandatory duty on the part of a school board, school district, and school district administrator. Public schools and public-school employees that intentionally ignore a mandatory duty or requirement could subject the district (and the district employee) to legal consequences.
California Department of Public Health Authority* 
  • The State Public Health Officer may issue orders to stop the spread of communicable diseases. (Health and Safety code section 120155). Government Code section 11158 indicates that the sheriff of each county may enforce all orders of the State Department Public Health issued for the purposes of preventing spread of any contagious, infectious, or communicable disease.
  • Failure to implement or follow public health and safety mandates could result in the State Health Officer requesting that the sheriff enforce the order. This could lead to legal consequences for the school board, school district, and/or school district administrators.
  • CDPH issued a Letter to School Leaders regarding universal mask mandates, that outlines the obligation to follow the mask mandates, and potential ramifications if such mandates are not followed.
California Occupational Safety and Health Administration*
  • Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) requires school districts, as employers, to provide a safe working environment. Although Cal/OSHA does not enforce the K–12 Guidance issued by CDPH, an employee or parent could file a complaint with Cal/OSHA that a district’s failure to enforce CDPH’s requirements creates an unsafe working environment for the employee.
  • Cal/OSHA has an enforcement mechanism that includes on-site investigation, document production, and significant fines if an employer is out of compliance.
Safety and Liability*
  • One of the most important responsibilities of school boards and school administrators is to insure the health and safety of students and staff. School districts have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of students. Failure to adhere to CDPH mandates including universal masking, testing, and or vaccination required under the Health and Safety code could be deemed a breach of a legal duty to protect students and could jeopardize the district’s insurance coverage for claims arising from the district’s failure to adhere to the mandates.
  • Failing to follow public health and safety mandates would significantly increase liability exposure should a student, staff member, or member of the public be injured. If there was no insurance coverage, any claims would be paid from the district’s general fund, putting instruction at risk.

*Legal guidance provided by the Orange County Department of Education