Updated June 18
Fully vaccinated Californians will soon be able to go without masks in the workplace after regulators approved new rules Thursday and Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly waived a waiting period for them to take effect.
Under the new rules, workers will no longer need to wear masks or physically distance themselves at work if they are fully vaccinated, except in certain situations or if there is an outbreak. Employers would be required to provide masks for unvaccinated workers.
The five-to-one vote came after four hours of public testimony. Dave Thomas, who chairs California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, noted the continued misinformation on masks and vaccines.
“If you have not been vaccinated, I wish that you would seriously consider it," Thomas said during the meeting. "Because I think it is probably the most important thing that you can do in these circumstances.”
The move comes two days after the state reopened its economy, which dropped mask requirements for fully vaccinated Californians in most situations. It also follows weeks of confusion within the group that oversees California's workplace safety regulations.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards board, also known as Cal/OSHA, has gone back and forth with its standards since June 3. At one point the group approved new rules, only to change them the next day before they took effect.
Under the new rules:
- Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings indoors, but employers must document their vaccination status.
- Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status, except for certain employees during outbreaks.
- There are no physical distancing requirements, except where an employer determines there is a hazard and for certain employees during major outbreaks.
- Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request N95 respirator masks for voluntary use from their employers at no cost and without fear of retaliation.
- Employees who are not fully vaccinated and exhibit COVID-19 symptoms must be offered testing by their employer. Employers do not need to offer testing for fully-vaccinated who may have been exposed unless they have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Employees are explicitly allowed to wear a face covering without fear of retaliation from employers.
Business groups, which have been calling for the state to remove mask requirements around the state's June 15 reopening, called the new rules "a step in the right direction." But a coalition of business groups said they will continue to push to drop requirements for employers to provide masks and other regulations.
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