Prioritization of Vaccination for Code Officials
You may have heard that CEO Dominic Sims recently sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urging the classification of code officials as frontline essential workers. This action is aimed at aligning CDC COVID-19 vaccine guidelines and priorities with standing guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designating code officials as members of the nation’s Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. More information here.
Please share the letter below that was sent to Governor Newsom today addressing the need for California to upgrade the priority status of code officials to receive vaccines.
February 11, 2021
The Honorable Governor Gavin Newsom
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
The Honorable Governor Newsom:
I am writing to you on behalf of the International Code Council (Code Council), a national nonprofit with
more than 8300 members in California, which facilitates the development and implementation of model
building codes that help ensure safety, resilience, and sustainability. Our membership includes state and
local code officials who are charged with implementing their jurisdiction’s adopted codes as well as
design professionals and members of the construction industry.
Our members continue to assist California and its communities in confronting the COVID19 pandemic. To ensure they can continue to do so safely, the Code Council strongly encourages
California to 1) recognize code officials whose work requires on-site activity in close proximity to the
public as within the Emergency Services sector and eligible for vaccination under Phase 1B Tier 1, and
2) to include code officials not offered vaccination under prior phases vaccination under California’s
next tier or phase. Doing so would be consistent with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s
(CDC) guidance on vaccination.1
Simply stated, SLTT building and fire prevention departments are essential. These departments, and the
building, fire, plumbing, electrical, fuel gas, and mechanical officials and inspectors that comprise them,
conduct critical work. They enforce regulations that require disinfection of ventilation through
mechanical systems in hospitals, adequate facilities to ensure handwashing, and safe and sanitary
plumbing systems that mitigate the spread of contagions, including water, sanitary, drainage, and
medical gas systems. They also ensure healthcare centers are structurally sound, a critical function given
reports of a facility collapsing and the call for temporary healthcare facilities to create additional medical
Code officials-- including but not limited to fire marshals and property maintenance officials-- inspect
existing infrastructure, including plumbing, mechanical, electrical, ancillary, and fire and life safety
systems to verify that they are being maintained in a safe and sanitary condition within their original
1 See https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/categories-essential-workers.html; https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidanceessential-critical-infrastructure-workforce. Per the CDC’s guidance, certain code officials, particularly those working on-site or in
the field, should receive the vaccine during Phase 1b as members of the CDC category under NAICS Code 92219 - Other Justice,
Public Order, and Safety Activities and NAICS code 92216 - Fire Protection. Other code officials not working on-site or in the
field are recommended to receive the vaccine during Phase 1c as essential workers not included in Phase 1b.
design parameters. More broadly, code officials protect the health and welfare of building occupants by
identifying dangerous or unsafe sanitary, air quality, structural, or electrical hazards. Code officials also
have responsibility for addressing other national, state, and community priorities, including the
implementation of energy efficiency requirements and the safe deployment of renewable energy
According to FEMA, modern and well-enforced building codes are one of the most effective means to
mitigate communities against natural hazards.2 Strong code enforcement also plays a critical role,
capable of reducing losses 15 to 25 percent.3 Further, effective building and fire prevention
departments enable ongoing construction activity that is essential to our pandemic response and
maintaining economic recovery activities.
Building and fire prevention department functions, including inspections, permitting, and plan review
services, can-- and are currently-- being modified to protect the public health. But these services must
continue. To do so safely, these officials need to be prioritized for vaccination.
Code officials have worked hard to develop and implement remote virtual inspection technology, but
only half of departments have that capability4 and, even when its available, remote inspections are
limited to a subset of instances where virtual inspection can ensure safe construction and occupant
safety. As a result, most inspectors—who ensure essential housing and infrastructure projects move
forward and incorporate hazard mitigation measures, who protect residents facing substandard housing
conditions, and who respond to alleged violations of pandemic related operational restrictions—must
perform their work on-site. These inspections are frequently conducted indoors and in close proximity
to building occupants and members of the construction industry. Inspection of many conditions requires
close contact communication with the public to facilitate the examination of potentially dangerous
conditions or review of construction progress to ensure site, building, and occupant safety.
Researchers have found that construction workers had the highest positivity rates for asymptomatic
cases of any occupation, including healthcare staff, first responders, correctional personnel, elderly care
workers, grocery store workers, and food service employees. Construction workers trailed only
correctional personnel for the highest rate of symptomatic cases.5 To ensure they are able to continue
their vital role in facilitating essential construction, infrastructure resilience, and our pandemic
response, code officials in frequent close contact with the construction industry and other members of
the public need to be provided with access to COVID-19 vaccines within Phase 1B Tier 1.
California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Guidelines makes Emergency Services sector workers from
California’s list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers6 eligible for Phase 1B Tier 1. That sector
includes public works and fire departments, which employ code officials. That sector also covers workers
“who support weather disaster/natural hazard monitoring, response, mitigation, and prevention,
including personnel conducting, supporting, or facilitating wildfire mitigation activities.” California’s
building codes include numerous provisions that protect buildings and building occupants against
2 See FEMA’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan (2018).
3 Czajkowski, J. et. al., Demonstrating the Intensive Benefit to the Local Implementation of a Statewide Building Code (2017).
5 Allan-Blitz, et. al., High Frequency and Prevalence of Community-Based Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection (pre-print Dec. 11,
2020), available at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.09.20246249v1.
natural hazards, including wildfires7 and earthquakes.
8 Plan reviewers ensure that submitted plans
comply with these provisions, and inspectors ensure construction complies with the approved plans.
The Code Council believes that code officials who protect residents facing substandard housing
conditions (like the loss of heat, air conditioning, or running water) should be recognized within the
Emergency Services sector. California’s list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers also recognizes
code officials within the Government Operations and other community-based essential functions sector
as workers who ensure “the permits and inspection for construction.”
As you take action to protect citizens and communities, the Code Council strongly encourages you to
recognize code officials whose work requires on-site activity in close proximity to the public as within
the Emergency Services sector and eligible for vaccination under Phase 1B Tier 1 and to include code
officials not offered vaccination under prior phases vaccination under California’s next tier or phase.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Susan Dowty, S.E.
Government Relations Manager
International Code Council
cc: Mark Ghaly, MD, MPH, Secretary, Health and Human Services Agency
Yolanda Richardson, Secretary, Government Operations Agency