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No More Masks At Work For Vaccinated Californians

A woman wears a face mask.
(Chava Sanchez/Laist)
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Cal/OSHA, which regulates workplace safety, passed new rules allowing vaccinated workers to stop wearing a mask at work, but unvaccinated workers will be required to wear them indoors.

Physical distancing will no longer be required, unless a workplace has a major outbreak of 20 cases or more.

Gov. Gavin Newsom sped up the usual implementation process with an executive order right after the board vote on Thursday. The new regulations will take effect when they are filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

The rules also require employers to verify the vaccination status of workers before allowing them to work mask-less, but employees will be allowed to simply “self-attest” that they are vaccinated.

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There are some exemptions to the masking rule. 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.

Under the new Cal/OSHA rules:

  • Employers may allow vaccinated employees to work without face coverings indoors, but they must document workers’ vaccination status. Workers can either show written proof of vaccination, such as a CDC vaccine card, or “self-attest” that they are vaccinated without providing documentation. The employer is not required to maintain copies of workers vaccination cards.
  • Workers can decline to state if they’ve received the shots, but if they do they’ll be treated as unvaccinated.
  • Unvaccinated workers must wear masks indoors, unless they are alone in a room or vehicle. Employers must make the most effective masks, such as an N95, available for unvaccinated workers if they request them.
  • Employers must make coronavirus testing available to unvaccinated workers if they have symptoms.
  • Employees cannot face retaliation for wearing a mask.

The rules also outline the employer's responsibility if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace:

  • No face coverings are required outdoors unless there is an outbreak at a workplace, meaning three or more cases.
  • If there is a COVID-19 outbreak, masks will be mandated for all workers indoors, and outdoors if six-foot physical distancing can’t be maintained.
  • No physical distancing or barriers between workers are required, regardless of employees’ vaccination status, although employers can re-evaluate the need if an outbreak occurs. If a major outbreak occurs, meaning 20 or more cases, physical distancing and barriers will be mandated.
  • Fully vaccinated workers with no COVID-19 symptoms do not need to be tested or quarantined after they are exposed to the virus.

These emergency rules are not permanent, and could be tossed out by the board at a later date. In the meantime, a subcommittee will continue working on revisions that include benchmarks for rolling them back completely. But if California experiences another surge, the board could institute stricter mask rules.

Under separate state health department orders, everyone at K-12 schools, and at homeless shelters, nursing homes, health facilities or on public transit, will need to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

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