California has taken unprecedented action in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, including the Governor signing multiple executive orders that impact local government operations.  The State has also developed online resources for the public to receive up to date information about the Coronavirus response and relief actions, including a dedicated website.

Executive Order N-62-20 expands Workers Compensation Insurance coverage to all employees working outside the home that contract COVID-19.

Executive Order Declaring a State of Emergency
On March 4th, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency to formalize emergency actions relative to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Since then, he has issued a series of Executive Orders to facilitate and respond to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Executive Order Waives Certain Open Meeting Requirements for Local Government
On Thursday, March 12th, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order relating to actions to curb the spread of COVID-19.  One of the actions in the order waives some Brown Act requirements to allow local and state legislative bodies to hold public meetings via teleconferencing and to make public meetings accessible telephonically or otherwise electronically to all members of the public during the period while state or local officials are imposing or recommending measures to promote social distancing. Click here for a brief summary of the order.

Executive Order Halting Water Service Shutoffs
On Thursday, April 2, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order suspending shutoffs of water services to homes and small businesses, which simultaneously restored services to those whose had been discontinued after the Governor declared the state of emergency.

State Defines Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers
On March 19, 2020 Governor Newsom issued a Stay-at-Home Order for all Californians, and on March 21st the California Department of Public Health released its list of “essential critical infrastructure workers” designating which sectors of the workforce are not subject to the statewide stay-at-home order.  The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has also released Version 3.0 of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers list. Water and wastewater are considered essential public services and are referenced in the documents as follows:

CISA releases Version 3.0 of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker Guidance
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released Version 3.0 of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers list. Version 3.0 provides clarity around a range of positions needed to support the critical infrastructure functions laid out in the original guidance and Version 2.0. This iteration includes a reorganization of the section around Healthcare and Public Health and more detail to clarify essential workers; emphasis for Emergency Medical Services workers; and adds lawyers and legal aid workers. Also included is language focused on sustained access and freedom of movement; a reference to the CDC guidance on safety for critical infrastructure workers; and a statement saying sick employees should avoid the workplace and the workforce. In worker categories, all references to “employees” or “contractors” have been changed to “workers.” Other additions include a reference to the USCG Marine Safety Information Bulletin on essential maritime workers; clarified language including vehicle manufacture; and many other small changes to clarify language.

CISA issued initial guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers on March 19, which was developed to help state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities as they decide who to allow freedom of movement in areas that are under restrictions such as shelter-in-place or quarantine. That initial guidance was developed with input from our government and industry partners, on the assumption that we would need to update the guidance as we received additional feedback from stakeholders.

CISA moved quickly to incorporate feedback to update the list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers to expand and specify additional categories of essential workers who are key to maintaining a community’s safety, public health, and economy. These changes were included in Version 2.0 of this guidance, released March 28, generally represented minor clarifications or additions that did not shift the overall scoping of critical infrastructure activity as highlighted in the initial release. Specifically, clarity was provided around a range of supporting and enabling activity for infrastructure resilience – the commodity, services, and logistical supply chains of other infrastructure functions. This included more direct call outs for essential sanitation and hygiene production and services, as well as manufacturing of critical products.

The Guide continues to be a resource for state and local decision makers and is in no way a binding document. Ultimately, all final decisions rest with state and local authorities, who must use their own judgment to balance public health and safety with the need to maintain critical infrastructure.

The degree to which state and local orders have leveraged our guidance when defining essential workers is encouraging. A common national picture will ultimately benefit us all. We hope this updated Guide helps as your communities grapple with the impacts of COVID-19. Please direct any questions to

Sector Profile: The Water and Wastewater Sector is a complex sector composed of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure of varying sizes and ownership types. Multiple governing authorities pertaining to the Water and Wastewater Sector provide for public health, environmental protection, and security measures, among others. Essential Workforce Employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure, including:

  • Operational staff at water authorities
  • Operational staff at community water systems
  • Operational staff at wastewater treatment facilities
  • Workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling or monitoring
  • Operational staff for water distribution and testing
  • Operational staff at wastewater collection facilities
  • Operational staff and technical support for SCADA Control systems
  • Chemical disinfectant suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection
  • Workers that maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting water and wastewater operations

Agencies have some flexibility in implementing these requirements. We would encourage you to review and reference some samples found on our “Agency Resources” page for additional information.

California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES)
During disasters, federal resources can be mobilized through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for federal assistance to state or local governments. FEMA then coordinates with CalOES to implement the Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program and other aspects of disaster related assistance. The Cal OES’ webpage for the inland, coastal, and southern regional offices is a good place for agencies with questions to start as well as the CalOES webpage with all of the regional contacts that includes mailing addresses and emails.

Legislative Actions
After passing a major $1.1 billion emergency funding package on March 16th, the California State Assembly and State Senate have adjourned for an extended recess and are currently scheduled to return on May 4th.  Prior to adjourning, both houses adopted amended rules to allow them to hold legislative meetings remotely should it be necessary for legislative business moving forward. In the meantime, the State Capitol building is closed to the public and all hearings have been cancelled until further notice.  

State Water Resources Control Board Advisory on Flushing Wipes
The State Water Resources Control Board issued a press advisory on March 17, 2020 advising the public to avoid flushing disinfectant wipes and paper towels because of the problems they pose for sewer systems.  The press advisory was prompted by several bay area agencies experiencing a surge in non-flushable debris causing spills or near-spills, who in turn reached out to the Board asking for help with generating public awareness.  The onslaught of wipes debris is suspected to be associated with local and statewide health directives encouraging people to wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes to prevent the spread of disease.  Adding to the problem is national toilet paper shortage contributing to increased use of alternatives such as “flushable” wipes, baby wipes, or other non-flushable products.  Many agencies are already experiencing or expect to see additional debris and maintenance issues associated with the non-flushable products.  Visit the CASA Wipes webpage for more information on the statewide and national media interest in wipes and for communications resources for agencies to help spread the message on pollution prevention.


California’s Recycled Water and Treated Wastewater is Safe from the COVID-19 Virus
Existing stringent state standards protect public from COVID-19. Fact Sheet

Other State Links and Resources
Department of Industrial Relations: Employer Information
Documents on Defining Essential Critical Workers
CalPERS Materials on COVID-19: CalPERS Circular Letter 200-015-20, CalPERS COVID-19 FAQ
CA Department of Public Health COVID-19 Webpage