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California Will Consider Relaxing Mask Requirements At Workplaces

A server wearing a mask and face shield approaches two unmasked customers at an outdoor restaurant table.
A server wearing a mask and face shield takes orders from customers at a restaurant in Beverly Hills in November, 2020.
(Robyn Beck
Getty Images)
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California’s workplace safety board doesn’t appear to be ready to ditch masks and physical distancing yet.

On June 15, California will align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s masking recommendations. They state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most cases, either indoors and outdoors — except on public transport, on airplanes, in health care settings and at businesses that mandate them for everyone.

But the Cal/OSHA board’s proposed workplace coronavirus safety rules would keep both physical distancing and masking in place, for now.

Here are the highlights:

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  • Workers can remove masks if everyone in the room is fully vaccinated and doesn’t have COVID-19 symptoms. (A person becomes fully vaccinated 14 days after their final vaccine dose.) The employer must have “documented proof” of the vaccination.
  • Masks would be required if anyone in the room is not fully vaccinated. This includes members of the public, for example, in a store or restaurant.
  • Employees who can't wear face coverings due to medical conditions, mental health conditions or disabilities or during tasks that cannot be performed while wearing a face covering, would need to be tested for COVID-19 weekly during work hours at no cost to the employee.
  • Until July 31, employees in indoor settings or outdoor mega events with more than 10,000 people must continue to physically distance themselves from others by at least six feet or be given the option to wear respirators, such as N95 masks that must be provided by the employer.

If the Cal/OSHA board approves the proposal at its meeting on June 3, it will be sent to the state Office of Administrative Law, which will have 10 days to act.

The proposal is similar to another proposal the board was scheduled to consider on May 20 but it was delayed by a last-minute memo from Cal/OSHA Deputy Chief Eric Berg, who asked for more time so staff could review the CDC’s masking requirements.