CHA News

Public Health Officer Order and AFL on Hospital and SNF Visitation

For quality & patient safety staff, infection preventionists

This post has been archived and contains information that may be out of date.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a public health officer order on Aug. 5 requiring general acute care hospitals, skilled-nursing facilities, and intermediate care facilities to either: (1) verify that indoor visitors are fully vaccinated, or (2) verify documentation of a negative COVID-19 test. In addition, CDPH issued All Facilities Letter 21-31 on visitation for general acute care hospitals on Aug. 12, 2021. The health order and AFL include the following requirements: 

  • Plan: Facilities must have a plan in place to document the verification of visitor vaccination status or negative test results. Records must be made available to the local health department upon request. 
  • Test results: Specimen collection must have occurred within 72 hours before each visit and the test results must be available at the time of entry to the facility. Both antigen and PCR testing are acceptable. Visitors who test positive should not be permitted to visit.
  • Other screening: Each visitor, regardless of vaccination status, should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, including fever. It is permissible to simply ask about fever – there’s no requirement that the hospital take each visitor’s temperature.
  • End-of-life exception: Visitors of a patient in critical condition, when death may be imminent, are exempt from the vaccination and testing requirements.
  • Other exceptions: In emergent situations, a parent or guardian of a pediatric patient, a support person for a labor and delivery patient, and a support person for a patient with physical, intellectual, or developmental disability, or cognitive impairment, are exempt from the vaccination and testing requirements. However, for subsequent visits following the emergent situation, and as soon as reasonably possible, these visitors must comply with the vaccination or testing requirements.
  • PPE and social distancing: Visitors must physically distance from health care personnel and wear a well-fitting face mask or other personal protective equipment (PPE) deemed necessary by the facility.

Facilities can offer to conduct onsite testing of visitors but are not required to do so. Facilities must be in full compliance with this order by Aug. 11 at 12:01 a.m. (PT). Acute psychiatric hospitals are not subject to this order. Additional rules apply to skilled-nursing facilities.