UPDATED with the latest: California updated its masking guide once again on Wednesday. The news comes after a series of confusing announcements on the subject by state and federal officials and just hours before another announcement that may replace guidance issued by state officials.
The Guide issued Wednesday by the California Department of Public Health says that beginning June 15, fully vaccinated people will be able to resume their daily activities without wearing a mask. Masks will be required for unvaccinated individuals in public settings and closed businesses. Masks will also be required in some limited situations, regardless of vaccination status. Those exceptions include public transportation, schools and child care centers (pending updated guidance from CDC), medical and long-term care facilities, prisons, and emergency or homeless shelters.
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Los Angeles County health officials announced shortly after that LA will align with the state’s masking guideline.
But there is an asterisk.
In the workplace, employers are subject to mandates issued by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal / OSHA and its Covid-19. Temporary emergency standards (ETS) or the CalOSHA Aerosol Communicable Disease Standard. Those standards have yet to be finalized, despite Governor Gavin Newsom announcing that the state will reopen next Tuesday.
A special meeting of the Cal / OSHA Standards Board will be held Wednesday night to discuss the newly announced guidance from the California Department of Public Health. It is the decision of that board that will dictate the business requirements, not the new guidance from the public health department.
California Director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly reportedly It said Wednesday that the state’s new guidance is not intended to pressure the board in one way or another in its decision on the required masking of employees. It is simply intended to explain the administration’s position regarding the CDC’s guidance. But the timing of the launch, just hours before the Cal / OSHA board meets, seems curious. It’s, at the very least, likely confusing for California residents and entrepreneurs trying to plan more than seven days in advance.
According to new state guidance, in settings where unvaccinated-only masks are required, businesses, venue operators, or hosts can:
-Allow vaccinated people to attest that they are in compliance before entering
-Implement vaccination verification to determine if people should wear a mask
-Requires all customers to wear skins
An important caveat: CA guidance states that “No person may be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participating in an activity or entering a business.”
There are some people who are exempt from wearing masks, regardless of vaccination status. They include:
-People under two years of age
-People with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.
-People who are hearing impaired or who communicate with a hearing impaired person, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
-People for whom wearing a mask would create a hazard to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
PREVIOUSLY on June 1: Earlier last month, Governor Gavin Newsom assured Californians that face masks for fully vaccinated residents would soon be gone. When asked by a reporter if there would be a mask mandate after June 15, the generally talkative Newsom was quick to say, “No.” He then listed some rare circumstances where masks would still be needed.
The next day, the governor qualified his statement by saying: “For indoor activities, we will probably still have some mask mandates. But the hope is that they will disappear sooner rather than later. “
That Newsom went out on his skis is understandable. He faces a recall election and, like the rest of us, tries to interpret the mixed signals from the CDC and President Biden.
But a committee charged with recommending Covid safety measures to the CA Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (CalOSHA) advises on a new draft document that masking in the workplace should continue after June 15.
The document says, in part, that “Employers must provide face coverings and ensure that employees wear them over their nose and mouth when indoors, when outdoors and within six feet of another person … “The main exceptions to this rule would be” When an employee is alone in a room, or when all the people in a room are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms of Covid-19 “, or while” Employees [are] wearing respirators … “
The result of those restrictions would be that unvaccinated employees would need to wear masks while working. Also, the presence of an unvaccinated person in a room full of otherwise vaccinated employees would mean that everyone must wear a mask. Employers may also need to keep track of who is vaccinated and who is not. Talk about peer pressure.
In addition, the CDC guide issued this weekend advises unvaccinated people to wear masks “whenever you are indoors or outdoors with people who do not live with you.”
As for physical distancing, CA’s recommendations say that, through July 31, 2022, “all employees must be separated from other people by at least six feet” unless respirators are used.
There is no suggested end date in the CA skin recommendations. They will be discussed at a meeting of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on Thursday morning. The seven members of that panel are appointed by Governor Newsom.