Protecting Public Health
Legal authority for County Health Officer orders addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is in the California Health and Safety Code, which grants broad powers to the Health Officer to protect public health during local emergencies and prevent the spread of contagious diseases. The statutes include Health and Safety Code sections 101040 and 120175. As actions taken under this statutory authority, Health Officer orders are measures taken to preserve the public health, which is an exercise of the police power contained in the California Constitution.
Masks in Skilled Nursing Facilities and Hospitals
Marin County, alongside other Bay Area counties instituted a health order that requires patients, staff and visitors to wear a mask in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities for the fall and winter virus season, November 1, 2023 through March 31, 2024.
The intent of the order is to protect individuals in these high-risk healthcare settings and limit the spread of seasonal respiratory viruses including RSV, influenza, and COVID-19. It will apply to all individuals within the facility while they are in patient care areas. Children under age 6 and those with a valid medical reason are exempt.
During the fall and winter seasons it is important to remember the basics of disease prevention such as vaccination, staying home when sick, handwashing, and “strategic masking.”
What is the Legal Authority for the State and Local Orders Issued in Response to the Pandemic?
The State’s Health Order, issued June 11, 2021, lists the California Health and Safety Code provisions that authorize the California Department of Public Health to take action necessary to protect public health. (California Health & Safety Code Sections 120125, 120140, 120175, 120195 and 131080.) Additional authority is provided by Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders N-25-20 and N-60-20, which were issued pursuant to the Emergency Services Act, California Government Code Section 8550 et seq. Local Health Orders issued by the Marin County Health Officer are issued pursuant to California Health and Safety Code Sections 101040, 101085, and 120175.