It’s Not Just Hollywood: California Companies Still Required To Mask Up During Covid Outbreaks

On Monday, Deadline broke the news that Lionsgate brought back a Covid mask mandate on two floors of its five-story flagship office in Santa Monica after several employees had tested positive. The story, which also covered other measures – including contact tracing, daily self-screenings as well as self-isolation after out-of-country trips — was widely picked up and made national news. That turned Lionsgate — and by association Hollywood — into a target for criticism over the mandate reinstatement amid a nationwide rise in Covid cases.

Some of the criticism likely stemmed from the wording in the internal memo sent to employees by Lionsgate’s Response Manager, which Deadline quoted in the story. It presented the new mask requirement as open-ended and indefinite by listing it as being “effective immediately and until further notice.”

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But it turns out that the mandate is temporary for the duration of outbreak. Also, in notifying its staffers of strict new Covid measures, Lionsgate was largely following orders from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which in turn appears to be implementing regulations set during the pandemic by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, which remain in effect.

And Lionsgate may not be the only California company — in Hollywood and beyond — to impose such temporary restrictions.

I hear that the Warner Bros Discovery Ivy Station Office, which was listed on Public Health’s roster of recent Covid outbreaks, also did notify its employees and instituted a mask mandate, first for the floor where the handful of infections occurred and subsequently for the entire building out of an abundance of caution. After contact tracing and other measures were completed, I hear the mandate was lifted days later.

It may come as a surprise since California’s Covid-19 State of Emergency was lifted February 28 and the federal Public Health Emergency on May 11, but companies are still required to report outbreaks with some modifications to the requirements. (Currently, companies must notify L.A. County Health of a cluster: three or more linked Covid cases known within a seven-day period; or for workplaces with more than 100 on-site workers, when 5% of the workers are infected within a seven-day period even if they are unlinked.)

In response to Lionsgate’s recently reported outbreak, the company was assigned a Public Health Outbreak Investigator who sent the company a strongly worded letter, sources tell Deadline. It reportedly featured the following language, “Public Health requires that the listed mitigation measures and actions be performed immediately during the outbreak,” with the words “requires” and “immediately” bolded.

The list of 11 measures, which is said to include detailed instructions for contact tracing, isolation, testing, notification, etc., did say that during the outbreak, Lionsgate has to “require exposed employees, workers, and staff, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a well-fitting mask indoors including in shared vehicles, or when less than 6 feet from another person outdoors,” sources tell Deadline.

We reached out to Public Health to inquire whether the department is sending all companies with active outbreaks letters consisting of requirements with which they need to comply, including re-masking. In response, the Public Health Chief Communication Officer referred us to the department’s workplace page, which outlines steps companies should take in case of a Covid case or an outbreak.

That page stipulates that, “If there is an outbreak in a workplace, all exposed employees are required to wear a mask when indoors, or when outdoors and less than six feet from another person.”

In its guidelines, the department defers to and frequently cites Cal/OSHA standards. The state government agency’s Covid regulations, in effect until February 2025, appear to be at the core of the continuing outbreak mask-mandate requirements which have sparked controversy.

Cal/OSHA has not responded to an email seeking comment.

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