California’s workplace safety department says workers in the state must continue to wear masks unless all employees are confirmed to have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved revised guidelines late this week, stressing it is likely to revisit them as the state’s anticipated June 15 “reopening date” draws closer. The changes are set to take effect June 15 but could be approved earlier.
Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines saying vaccinated people shouldn’t have to wear masks in the company of others, OSHSB approved standards that said workers who are vaccinated but in a workplace with one or more unvaccinated employees have to keep masks on.
The standards apply to nearly all businesses in California except industries that require more stringent safeguards, remote businesses and single-employee entities.
Employees at outdoor “mega events” with more than 10,000 attendees will have to stay masked. This mandate applies to things such as outdoor concert workers or theme park employees.
Employers no longer will be required to mandate physical distancing for workers but only if they offer respirators such as N95 masks to unvaccinated workers for voluntary use. This proposal was criticized by employers who said the mandate would be costly and ineffective.
“Cal/OSHA should be adopting the same rules and protocols for workers that Governor Gavin Newsom has adopted for the rest of the state – beginning June 15 – and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopted for the rest of the country,” California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg said.
State regulators aren’t following the science, he said.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask inside or outside. That’s the science! Under the rules now being considered by Cal/OSHA, workers cannot control their own destiny, like the rest of Californians,” he said. “Under these rules, workers’ freedoms will be controlled by their fellow workers' decisions to get vaccinated, not by their own choices.”
The board initially narrowly rejected making any changes to their mitigations. The meeting had been postponed to Thursday after the CDC’s May 13 announcement that vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks when going about their pre-pandemic activities. The board is scheduled to meet again June 17, two days after the state lifts its COVID-19 mitigations entirely.