After a lengthy meeting on Thursday, California regulators have shifted the rules for mask-wearing in the workplace for the third time in a month, allowing fully-vaccinated workers to go maskless on-the-job.
Following the signature of an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the rules – approved by a 5-1 vote by the Cal-OSHA board – are now in immediate effect.
The new rules allow employees who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to work without a mask, except in certain situations. Unvaccinated workers are required to wear face masks while indoors or while in work vehicles.
Fully vaccinated individuals also won’t need to be tested for COVID-19 or quarantine after close contact with a case unless they show symptoms.
The newly-adopted rules also require employers to:
- Verify and document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated workers if they do not wear masks indoors;
- Make COVID-19 testing to unvaccinated employees who have symptoms, as well as vaccinate workers who have symptoms after close contact with a COVID-19 case;
- Allow employees to wear a face-covering if they chose without fear of retaliation from employers;
- Provide workers who are not fully vaccinated with respirators for voluntary use, upon request and at no cost;
- Evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency, and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems
A coalition of California business groups said that, while the rules clarified a month’s worth of confusion, they fell short in conforming with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and the workplace rules of other major U.S. states.
“There is still more work to be done and these new Cal/OSHA regulations do not ensure that the economy can ‘roar’ back,” the groups said in a statement. “Instead, they continue to not align with the CDC and are inconsistent with other large states like New York, which have fully opened without similar confusion and frustration.”
The groups said that the requirements to document and retain information related to vaccination status along with lingering questions of employer liability for coronavirus outbreaks remain regardless of the rules.
“The California standard continues to raise questions related to privacy, liability and duration of the standards. These must be addressed to ensure businesses can bring their employees back and fully reopen the economy.”
The coalition includes the California Business Roundtable, California African American Chamber of Commerce, California Restaurant Association, California Retailers Association, California Manufacturers & Technology Association, California Business Properties Association, National Federation of Independent Business, California, Western Growers, Los Angeles County Business Federation, Orange County Business Council, Central Valley Business Federation, and the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce.