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California To Use The Honor System For Masks Come June 15, But Workplace Rules Are Muddy

Stock- Coronavirus Health
(Chava Sanchez
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California will eliminate the color-coded tier system and public mask mandate on June 15, a date that’s been billed as the state’s economic reopening by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Businesses will be allowed to reopen at full capacity. The state's mask guidance will be updatedto allow fully vaccinated Californians to do almost everything they did pre-pandemic without wearing a mask, like grocery shopping or going to the gym.

Masks will still be required for everyone in high risk settings — like public transit, at an indoor K-through-12 school, or at a health facility. But unvaccinated people will still need to mask up no matter where they go.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's Health and Human Services Secretary, said businesses have three options when it comes to mask wearing.

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  1. Allow vaccinated people to self attest that they are vaccinated and don't need to wear a mask.
  2. Use a vaccination verification system to determine who needs to wear a mask.
  3. Require everyone to wear a mask.

Ghaly said that businesses can use the honor system.

"If somebody comes into their business or their operation without a mask, it should be considered as self attestation for someone being vaccinated. So we are not requiring businesses to have somebody at the door checking for vaccine status as a way to comply with this," Ghaly said.

But coronavirus safety guidelines for workers are still up in the air. The board of California’s workplace safety agency, better known as Cal/OSHA, will reconsider the June 15 rules at an emergency meeting tonight. At a nine-hour meeting last week, the state’s workplace safety board passed rules that require employees to keep wearing masks in most situations. Here are the highlights:

  • 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 for all employees if anyone in the room is not fully vaccinated. At a restaurant, a patron could be unmasked but the server would be masked. (Businesses will still be able to require all customers to be masked.)
  • 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.

Business groups that were fervently against the rules, sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to effectively throw out the rules with an executive order. They argued that workers would be disincentivized to return to work if they had to wear a mask.

Businesses advocates also said they don’t want to have to provide respirators like N95s to unvaccinated employees to wear if they chose after July 31, which is the current plan.

Worker advocates say the masking rules are necessary to protect unvaccinated workers especially in low income areas where less than half of people are fully vaccinated.

Updated June 9, 2021 at 5:06 PM PDT
This story was updated to include mask-wearing rules announced by the California Department of Public Health for June 15.