The California state public health officer on July 26 issued an order requiring all health care workers in the state to either show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or be tested regularly. Two new state orders were issued today that relate to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in specified health care settings. Today’s orders do not apply to dental offices.
Most of the July 26 order from the state is clear, but a few areas would benefit from additional clarity. CDA is seeking guidance from the state on outstanding questions, particularly about the details of how the weekly testing requirements for unvaccinated individuals must be implemented.
CDA is specifically urging Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health to provide guidance on how the order will be enforced and what the specific responsibilities and consequences will be for employers and employees in dental offices. CDA is also conveying members’ concerns about managing the order in a way that does not exacerbate the current shortages of dental support staff.
CDA supports efforts aimed at increasing vaccination rates but is strongly voicing our members’ need for the state to provide further clarity on how the vaccination and testing mandate will be implemented and will continue seeking answers in the weeks ahead. Additionally, CDA is asking the labor commissioner for a formal opinion on employer and employee responsibilities related to the state order, although this process can take some time.
With the compliance deadline of Aug. 23 approaching, CDA consulted with several employment attorneys to provide guidance while CDA awaits clarification from the state on the outstanding issues.
Outside counsel are advising that, while the employee’s health insurance and community testing sites cover the test cost, the employee’s time for testing or employers choosing to offer self-administered tests in the office should be regarded as an employer responsibility.
Until the state provides additional guidance on the employer responsibilities of this requirement, dentist-employers may want to take a conservative approach in implementing the policy by proactively covering the costs associated with testing that are not otherwise covered by insurance or no-cost community test sites.
Some practices may choose to implement an employee vaccination verification requirement rather than the testing option provided under the July 26 order. A vaccination verification requirement also aligns with leading health care organizations’ recommendations to assist with mitigating the pandemic. Please keep in mind any employee vaccine verification requirement must include opportunities for reasonable accommodation.
CDA recognizes the burden placed on dental practice owners during this challenging time. While the majority of dentists and their dental team members are vaccinated against COVID-19, millions of Californians still have not taken the essential step to curb the pandemic by receiving the vaccine. Find more information on how to discuss the vaccine with your patients and dental team in CDA’s Vaccine Confidence Toolkit.
Additionally, dentists can get answers to questions about employee testing, vaccination and more by reviewing CDA’s FAQ about the order. CDA has also developed resources, including a mandatory vaccine policy, self-certification of employee vaccination status and accommodation request forms, to help members comply with the state order.
CDA will communicate with members in the CDA newsroom and update those resources as more information becomes available.