On March 19, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 (“Order”) which effectively shut down most of California in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In issuing the Order, many licensed California dealers were left guessing as to whether the automotive sales industry was essential such that it could continue to operate. On April 28, 2020, the State Public Health Officer clarified the list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers. The State Public Health Officer has noted that “[w]orkers critical to the manufacturing, distribution, sales, rental, leasing, repair, and maintenance of vehicles and other transportation equipment (including electric vehicle charging stations) and the supply chains that enable these operations, subject to adhering public health guidance issued by [the California Department of Health]” are essential. This means that auto sales in California are classified as essential and may remain open. The full text of the April 28, 2020, clarification can be found here.
In operating a dealership, dealers are required to adhere to the California Department of Public Health guidelines, including:
- Requiring face coverings.
- Frequent hand washing.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Staying away from other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
- Following guidance from public health officials such as staying home if you are over the age of 65 or have underlying health conditions.
The guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health can be found here.
These orders are certainly subject to change, particularly if dealerships are found not to be in compliance with the California Department of Public Health guidelines for operating essential businesses.