As discussed in our Legal Update 01-2020(CC) the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) along with the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) are working with local County Departments of Health Services to provide guidance regarding responding to COVID-19. The purpose of this Legal Update is to provide guidance on the statutes and regulations governing this matter.
Health Officer Is Responsible for Providing Notification, Guidance, and Orders
Health and Safety Code §§ 120175 et seq. provide that each County in California shall have a Local Health Officer. For example, in Sonoma County the Health Officer is Dr. Celeste Philip. Health and Safety Code § 120175.5 provides:
(a) During an outbreak of a communicable disease, or upon the imminent and proximate threat of a communicable disease outbreak or epidemic that threatens the public’s health, a local health officer shall do both of the following:
(1) Promptly notify and update governmental entities within the local health officer’s jurisdiction about communicable diseases listed in Section 2500 of Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations that may affect them, if, in the opinion of the local health officer, action or inaction on the part of the governmental entity might affect outbreak response efforts.
(2) Make any relevant information available to governmental entities, including, but not limited to, the locations of concentrations of cases, the number of residents affected, and the measures that the governmental entities should take to assist with outbreak response efforts.
(b) In addition to the actions required under subdivision (a), the local health officer may issue orders to other governmental entities within the local health officer’s jurisdiction to take any action the local health officer deems necessary to control the spread of the communicable disease.
(c) A local health officer that provides the notification and information to a governmental entity pursuant to subdivision (a), and the governmental entity that receives the notification and information, shall comply with all applicable state and federal privacy laws.
Each County Health Officer is ultimately responsible for providing notification to community college districts, guidance to community college districts, and, if necessary, orders to community college districts and all persons in the County related to public health matters.
The Chancellor’s Office has created a list of resources to assist community college districts in making decisions regarding their response to COVID-19. This list is available on the Chancellor’s website at: https://www.cccco.edu/About-Us/Chancellors-Office/Divisions/Communications-and-Marketing/Novel-Coronavirus. Additionally, the CPDH issued guidance to Colleges and Universities on February 7, 2020, which is attached to this Legal Update, and which provides guidance on many topics, including responding to students and staff who have travelled abroad during this outbreak.
Health and Safety Code § 120230 provides:
No instructor, teacher, pupil, or child who resides where any contagious, infectious, or communicable disease exists or has recently existed, that is subject to strict isolation or quarantine of contacts, shall be permitted by any superintendent, principal, or teacher of any college, seminary, or public or private school to attend the college, seminary, or school, except by the written permission of the health officer.
Thus, if the County Health Officer orders a school closed or certain individuals (students and/or staff) to be excluded from the college, community college districts are required to comply with the directives of the County Health Officer.
Colleges Have Independent Legal Authority to Exclude Students and Staff
Students: Education Code § 76020 provides:
- The governing body of any community college district may exclude students of filthy or vicious habits, or students suffering from contagious or infectious diseases.
The governing board of the community college may exclude from attendance on regular classes any student whose physical or mental disability is such as to cause his or her attendance to be inimical to the welfare of other students.
Therefore, community college districts may exclude a student if there is a good reason to believe the student is infected with COVID-19. If a student is excluded from school, then the student should have the opportunity to complete all assignments and tests missed during the absence that can be reasonably provided and upon the satisfactory completion of the schoolwork within a reasonable amount of time, pursuant to college regulations and policy.
Staff: There are separate, but similar statutes that apply to community college district employees that allow for staff to be excluded from work.
For academic staff, Education Code § 87765 provides:
The governing board of a community college district may provide for the leave of absence from duty and may grant compensation during the leave of absence to any employee of the district who is employed in an academic position and who is compelled to absent himself or herself from his or her duties because of accident or illness, whether or not the cause of absence arises out of and in the course of the employment of the employee, or because of quarantine which results from his or her contact with other persons having a contagious disease while performing his or her duties, or because of temporary inability to perform the services required of him or her because of illness, accident, or quarantine.
For classified staff, Education Code § 88199 provides:
Governing boards of community college districts may grant leaves of absence to persons employed in nonacademic positions, and at their discretion may pay compensation at the rate the board prescribes, during the absence, to any employee whose absence is caused by accident or illness, whether or not the absence arises out of or in the course of the employment of the employee, or because of quarantine which results from his or her contact with other persons having a contagious disease while performing his or her duties.
Pursuant to Education Code Sections 87781 and 88191, colleges may require that the employee provide a written note from a health care provider confirming they are no longer contagious prior to the employee being allowed to return to work.
Please note, community college districts may have additional obligations regarding employee leaves pursuant to any applicable collective bargaining agreements, such as additional paid time off. We recommend that colleges review these agreements to ensure that they are acting in conformity with any obligations.
The information in this Legal Update is provided as a summary of law and is not intended as legal advice. Application of the law may vary depending on the particular facts and circumstances at issue. We, therefore, recommend that you consult legal counsel to advise you on how the law applies to your specific situation.
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