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Cal/OSHA approves new workplace guidelines after originally rejecting them

The controversial rules allow workers to go maskless only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — 7:30 p.m. update:

California workplace regulators approved controversial rules that allow workers to go maskless only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The revised rules adopted Thursday night by a sharply divided California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board are expected to kick in June 15.

But the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board made clear Thursday that the regulations are only a stopgap while they consider further easing pandemic rules in coming weeks or months. 

The new rules include:

  • If all employees are vaccinated, there is no need for masks indoors, but if there is even one person who is not vaccinated, masks will be required for all.
  • Unvaccinated workers will have to mask up at "mega-events" of more than 10,000 people.
  • Social distancing will be required through July 31, regardless of immunization status.
  • Employers will be required to provide COVID-19 testing to the unvaccinated at no cost, if they show symptoms, and must pay workers who self-isolate due to exposure to the virus at work.
  • After July 31, employers must offer respirators, such as N-95 masks, to all non-vaccinated workers for protection. It is up to the employee whether or not they wear it. 

The board initially voted to reject the proposals but realized had it stuck with that decision, older temporary emergency measures calling for masks, partitions and social distancing at all times would have stayed in place until October unless Governor Newsom made an executive order. 

The board reconsidered and voted unanimously to approve to proposals, adding a subcommittee that will work with Cal/OSHA to bring back a new proposal that would align closer to federal guidelines.

Original Story:

California workplace regulators are considering ending mask rules if every employee in a room has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

But the rules being considered Thursday frustrate business groups because they set a higher standard than the state plans to soon adopt for social settings.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated people can skip face coverings and distancing in virtually all situations. California is set to follow that recommendation starting June 15. 

But the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s staff says conditions are different among workers, who should remain masked unless everyone else in their workspace also is vaccinated.

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