Late last week, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) recommended to the state that most COVID-19 safety rules would not need to be changed until July 31st, rather than California’s June 15th reopening when the state mask mandate is to end.
Under the new proposed recommendations, many businesses would have to wait an additional month and a half to remove some 6-foot distancing requirements, to remove see-through partitions at stores around cash registers and check-out lines, and to end mask wearing during transit in some scenarios, amongst other restrictions. Unvaccinated workers at large outdoor events with more than 10,000 people would also have to keep in place six foot separations under the Cal/OSHA recommendations unless they are wearing employer provided N95 masks. However, while the employer would have to provide N95 masks, usage would be voluntary.
Restaurants, retailers, and other businesses would also only be responsible for employees and not customers under the recommendations.
Face coverings and masks for employees in many places of work would also not end on July 31st, and may possibly continue until early next year. Indoor mask wearing would especially take longer, as Cal/OSHA would keep mask requirements in place unless everyone there is vaccinated. Vaccination status would be known at businesses to properly enforce mask wearing, and in places where unvaccinated people such as customers could be present, masks would still need to be required.
“It would be impossible to enforce different mask policies for vaccinated and unvaccinated workers indoors in a constant, consistent manner,” noted Cal/OSHA last week.
Many legal experts noted that vaccinations are the main sticking point in ending mask wearing and other COVID-19 safety rules sooner.
“For anything indoors, yeah, Cal/OSHA is making it clear that they don’t want to loosen pandemic regulations just yet,” noted employment lawyer Carl Keller to the Globe on Tuesday. “Many will end June 15th, many other will end July 31st. But if everyone in one place isn’t vaccinated, then yeah, masks will still be needed for some time to come. June 15th isn’t the end. We all knew it wasn’t going to be the end. And these revised regulations, which still need to be voted on by the way, prove that.”
Many business groups expressed disappointment with the new regulation proposals during the holiday weekend, noting that the longer requirements and the specifications for certain masks could wind up hurting many people during the summer, such as a shortage of N95 masks for healthcare and agricultural workers during the upcoming wildfire season when N95 needs would go up again.
“We are disappointed to see that this new revised draft does not correspond to the governor’s June 15th opening, and that vaccinated individuals will have to continue to wear masks in the workplace,” said California Chamber of Commerce policy advocate Rob Moutrie during the weekend.
“The masking requirement will require employers to track vaccination status, stockpile N95 respirators and create policies and procedures for two classes of people: vaccinated and non-vaccinated,” added Helen Cleary, the director of the Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable.
The new Cal/OSHA regulations would not effect workplaces with a single employee or for workers currently working from home.
Cal/OSHA will vote on the new proposed recommendations on June 3rd.