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California Board Delays Vote On Masking And Distancing Rules In Workplaces

A masked worker at a bakery prepares to put pastries inside a display case.
A masked employee at an L.A. cafe and bakery.
(FREDERIC J. BROWN
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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California’s current emergency workplace regulations, which took effect last November, require workers to stay at least six feet apart and wear masks indoors, except when alone in a room or eating or drinking, regardless of vaccination status. Those rules will stay in place for now.

The Cal/OSHA board had planned on Thursday to consider proposed changes that would have allowed physical distancing requirements to end by August, and allow fully vaccinated workers without COVID-19 symptoms to forgo masks both indoors and outdoors as long as everyone else was vaccinated and didn’t have symptoms.

However, the night before the meeting, Cal/OSHA Deputy Chief Eric Berg sent a memo to board members asking them to delay the vote and allow staff time to draft a new proposal in light of the CDC’s recent mask update that says vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors in most settings. California state health officials say they'll adopt that guidance on June 15, the date Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed relaxing most coronavirus-related restrictions.

Berg wrote in the memo to board members that any new workplace guidelines should also have “a targeted effective date of June 15, 2021.”

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The board ended up tabling the vote so staff can make the proposed changes, but not before hearing hours of public testimony. Both employer and employee advocates told the board the proposed regulations were too vague, and asked for clarification on how vaccine status information may be requested and shared.

The public will have to wait until May 28 to see the proposed updated safety protections. The Cal/OSHA board will vote on the proposed changes in an emergency meeting on June 3. If the board can't agree on the new rules, the current regulations will stay in place until October.