California DMV closing all field offices to public to stem spread of coronavirus, memo says

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Faced with concerns among workers about the spread of COVID-19, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced in a memo to employees Thursday that it is closing all of its more than 170 field offices to the public starting Friday.

In a memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times that was sent to employees on Thursday, DMV Field Operations Deputy Director Coleen Solomon wrote that the closures are part of the agency “taking steps to address employee health and safety concerns, including public contact and increasing social distancing between individuals.”

Employees will be placed on paid administrative time off as the offices are closed for cleaning and disinfecting from March 27 to 31, and staff will return to work April 1 though the offices will remain closed to the public.

When employees return to work on April 1, they will receive training to process online transactions, the memo said. The DMV had previously scaled back operations but employees remained concerned about coming into close contact with customers who might carry the coronavirus.

A DMV employee in the San Joaquin Valley, who spoke on condition of anonymity, praised the decision to close to the public. She had been wearing gloves at work and was instructed to disinfect her station with disinfecting wipes after each customer, but she said that her customers often had trouble maintaining their distance.

“I feel that’s a great choice,” she said. “A little late, because we still don’t know whose been subjected to (the coronavirus), who might have it, but I think it’s a big first step from the DMV.”

The action comes just hours after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it was providing a one-year delay, until Oct. 1, 2021, of the deadline for states to issue Real IDs to millions of people who will need them to board domestic flights under new security measures.

The federal postponement relieved the California DMV from having to issue more than 1 million of the new identification cards each month to get them to all residents who might need them. State policy requires residents to appear in person at field offices to be thumb-printed and photographed get their Real ID.


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