Cal/OSHA board holds ‘special meeting’ over workplace mask guidance

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The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board scheduled a "special meeting" for Wednesday after state officials expressed a desire to bring the state’s mask guidance in line with that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón sent a letter to the board emphasizing that the state plans to do away with most masking and social distancing requirements for vaccinated people next Tuesday.

“As of June 15, face coverings will no longer be required for fully vaccinated Californians in public settings, except in the settings where CDC advises that all individuals should wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status, such as healthcare settings and long-term care facilities, public transit, and sheltering operations,” Aragón wrote in his letter.

In May, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced that fully vaccinated people could forgo a mask or social distancing in most indoor settings.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” said Walensky.

California has been slower to ease restrictions. And when the state's mask-wearing mandate will be mostly lifted on June 15, Cal/OSHA’s workplace safety rules will still apply unless the board reconsiders its earlier ruling.

In the first week of June, a Cal/OSHA panel voted in favor of a proposal that would continue mask mandates if even a single employee in the room was not vaccinated. Some state officials hope California can now align its standards with the CDC’s looser guidance.

“I have heard that Governor Newsom wants this to be done as well,” said Rachel Conn, an attorney specializing in employment law.

The governor's office "is hopeful the Board will further revise its guidance to reflect the latest science while continuing to protect workers and balancing realistic and enforceable requirements for employers,” according to a statement from Newsom’s press office.

Conn said the governor does not want to be the person to override any inconsistencies between state public health and Cal/OSHA

“He wants the standards board to fix this,” said Conn.