Fully vaccinated Californians can shed masks next week; workplaces remain complicated

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Californians can finally breathe a little easier, in most places.

As of next Tuesday, June 15, fully vaccinated California residents will no longer be obligated to wear face masks. But masking requirements in the state's workplace settings remain murky after a ruling late Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced the state will follow the guidelines on masking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it fully reopens next week.

"Fully vaccinated people can resume everyday activities without wearing a mask except in a few limited settings that are required by federal – and now state – rules," said Dr. Ghaly.

Masks will still be required on public transportation, indoors in K-12 schools, in long-term care facilities, in state and local correctional facilities, and in homeless shelters.

However, Ghaly advised: "Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks in indoor public settings."

A man wears a face mask and gloves on Santa Monica beach on the day Los Angeles County reopened its beaches, which had been closed due the coronavirus pandemic, on May 13, 2020 in Santa Monica, California.
A man wears a face mask and gloves on Santa Monica beach on the day Los Angeles County reopened its beaches, which had been closed due the coronavirus pandemic, on May 13, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Photo credit Mario Tama/Getty Images

Meanwhile, as the state prepares for fully vaccinated people to lose their mask in most places, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, is turning the clock back for employers.

The agency’s four-hour panel meeting on Wednesday meant to clarify rules on masks in the workplace seems to be confusing people even more.

What the Cal/OSHA Standards Board did was reverse any decisions it made last week and settled on guidelines passed last November – before we even had COVID-19 vaccines. Those guidelines are out of line with what both the CDC and California Department of Public Health have laid out.

It’s been frustrating for employers, to say the least.

"California is supposed to be roaring back and a confusing, difficult regulation for employers to implement – pitting workers against each other – (will) really, significantly delete that roar," said Bruce Wick with Housing Contractors of California.

Michael Miller is with the California Association of wine grape growers.

"I assure you, the (Emergency Temporary Standards) is an epic failure," he said. "California is where we are today in spite of the ETS, not because of the ETS. The ETS has nothing to do with California’s successes."

It’s important Cal/OSHA "get on the same page" with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Miller added.

The Cal/OSHA panel will now try to craft new workplace rules more in line with the state and federal guidelines, but that might not take effect until the end of June at the earliest.