Mandated work-from-home orders in Santa Clara County are coming to an end, county health leaders said Tuesday.
When the pandemic hit, county health officer Dr. Sara Cody issued guidelines that required employers to enact remote working when possible to limit the spread of COVID-19.
But now, with more than 75 percent of those 16 and older with at least one dose of the vaccine, and case counts at an all-time low, Cody said it's safe to come back to the office.
"Our case rate now is a third of what it was less than a month ago, our positivity rate is 0.5 percent, which is the lowest that we've ever recorded," Cody said. "So, for the first time in a long time, I feel optimistic."
The new health order will take effect on Thursday, a day after the county moves into the least-restrictive yellow tier in the state's COVID-19 reopening guidelines.
"The big change from now is two things: lifting the remote worker policy and businesses no longer need to do and post social distancing protocols," Cody said.
The new county health order allows all businesses to resume in-person operations with some guidelines: it requires employers determine and report to the county's public health department the vaccination status of their employees within 14 days of resuming in-person operations; defines safety rules for employees who remain unvaccinated; and continues to require that workplaces in schools report to the county when there is a COVID case.
County Counsel James Williams said those who do not wish to disclose their vaccination status to their employer will not be required to, however it will impact workplace safety guidelines because that person will be considered unvaccinated.
"I want to be very, very clear, there's nothing in the health order that mandates vaccination," Williams said "The requirement is to determine people's vaccination status. And then safety rules are in place accordingly."
For example, a workplace with a fully vaccinated staff will not be required to wear masks indoors or adhere to social distancing or quarantine guidelines, but a mixed vaccinated staff will have stricter restrictions.
The guidelines will be based off California Division of Occupational Safety and Health new guidelines coming out on Thursday, Williams said.
Besides the impacts on businesses, not much else is changing with this new health order. Cody said the county is still adhering to state guidelines that require mask-wearing that is in place until June 15.
In the meantime, county leaders are encouraging the remaining unvaccinated population to set up an appointment as soon as possible.
"It's never going to be easier or simpler (to get vaccinated)," Williams said. "There will never be more access than there is right now."
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is offering free rides to those heading to and from a vaccine appointment. Help with routes can be found at https://www.vta.org/go/routes.
The county, in coordination with VTA, is also offering free door-to-door service to vaccine appointments for those who are disabled, elderly, or have other transportation barriers. To access the service, residents can call the COVID-19 assistance navigation hotline at (408) 809-2124 at least 48 hours before their vaccine appointment.
To learn more about vaccinations or book an appointment in Santa Clara County, people can visit www.sccfreevax.org.