California drops workplace mask rule for most vaccinated employees

California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California regulators have approved revised worksite pandemic rules that allow fully vaccinated employees the same freedoms as when they are off the job.

The revised regulations adopted Thursday come after weeks of confusion. They conform with general state guidelines by ending most mask rules for people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved them on a 5-1 vote.

Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly issued an executive order sidestepping the usual legal review to allow the rules to take effect soon.

In a news release, Newsom’s office said the order was aimed at “providing clarity and consistency for employers and employees as California fully reopens its economy.”

The rules apply to almost every workplace in the state.

“Among other updates, Cal/OSHA’s revisions align with the latest guidance from the California Department of Public Health – based on guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – on face coverings and eliminate physical distancing requirements, except for certain employees during outbreaks,” the statement explains. “Unless they show symptoms, fully vaccinated employees do not need to be offered testing or be excluded from work after close contact with a COVID-19-positive person.”

The new policies:

  • State that fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH still requires all persons to wear them (these include transportation hubs, inside at K-12 schools, prisons and some other settings).
    Employers must verify and document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they do not wear face coverings indoors. 
  • Explicitly allow vaccinated employees to wear a face covering without fear of retaliation from employers.
  • Eliminate physical distancing requirements except for certain employees during major outbreaks.
  • State that employers must provide employees who are not fully vaccinated with respirators for voluntary use, upon request and at no cost.
  • State that employer-provided housing and transportation is exempt from the regulations where all residents and vehicle occupants are fully vaccinated.
  • State that employers must make COVID-19 testing available to unvaccinated employees who have symptoms as well as vaccinated employees who have symptoms after close contact with a COVID-19 case.
  • State that employers must review the Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.
  • State that employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency, and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems.

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