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California regulators drop mask rules for vaccinated workers, conforming to state and federal rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board passed a resolution adopting looser workplace pandemic rules patterned after the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

Fully vaccinated employees will not need to wear masks, except in locations like mass transit and classrooms where they are required for everyone, or in the event of outbreaks.

Just moments after a Cal/OSHA panel approved the changes, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order allowing the new rules to take effect immediately, eliminating the usual 10-day administrative law review.

The rules apply in almost every workplace in the state, including to workers in offices, factories and retail.

Fully vaccinated employees will not need to wear masks, except in locations like mass transit and classrooms where they are required for everyone, or in the event of outbreaks.

Physical distancing will also end except for certain workers during major outbreaks.

Vaccinated employees also won’t need to be tested or quarantined unless they show symptoms, even if they have close contact with an infected person.

Employers must document that workers who skip masks indoors are indeed fully vaccinated. But employers have the choice of requiring workers to show proof of vaccination or allowing employees to self-attest to their vaccination status, with the employer keeping a record of who self-attests.

They could also decide to require everyone to remain masked — vaccinated or not. And vaccinated employees will still be able to wear masks if they choose without facing retaliation.

The California Chamber of Commerce in a statement thanked Newsom, a Democrat, for eliminating confusion by pledging to conform workplace rules with the state’s loosened pandemic precautions.

That includes immediately ending social distancing obligations instead of waiting until July 31, as California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, had initially proposed.

The chamber also praised a rule change that will require employers to provide the most effective N95 masks for free to unvaccinated employees only upon request.

Helen Cleary, director of the Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable, a coalition of large businesses with major California operations, said allowing workers to self-attest is helpful, though her coalition still objects to requiring employers to document employees’ vaccine status.

Requiring employers to provide N95 masks even upon request will still require them to stockpile the most efficient face coverings, she said.

Everyone will need to remain masked in places such as public transit, indoor school classes, health care facilities and evacuation centers.

Last week, the board voted to revoke rules that required staff to wear masks in a workplace unless all employees were vaccinated. The board had just approved those rules just two weeks ago.

The board voted to revoke the less stringent rules because they would not be able to amend them for a couple of months. By revoking the rule, they were allowed to vote on loosened rules as early as June 17. The revised regulations would conform with general state guidelines that took effect Tuesday by ending most mask rules for people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

With the new rules revoked, it meant that the even more stringent rules adopted in November 2020 were in place. The Nov. 2020 rules required all workers to keep distance and remain masked, even if they're vaccinated.

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Coronavirus / Local News / News Headlines / Top Stories / Video

Jesus Reyes

Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

The Associated Press

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