SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California is set to fully reopen in less than two weeks and do away with virtually all mask and social distancing requirements for vaccinated people. But officials who regulate workplaces in the state aren’t ready to go that far and that’s angering business groups.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on Thursday was considering new workplace rules that would only allow workers to go maskless if everyone in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The rules could remain in place into early next year even though coronavirus cases have fallen dramatically in the state after a severe winter spike and as more people get vaccinated.
Recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance says that fully vaccinated people can now skip face coverings and distancing in nearly all situations and the state is set to follow that recommendation starting June 15.
But the state safety board’s staff says conditions are different among workers, leading to a proposed rule that even vaccinated employees wear masks unless everyone else in their workspace is inoculated.
Helen Cleary, director of the Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable, a coalition of large businesses with major California operations, said she was “astonished” that the staff of the safety board, known as Cal/OSHA, didn’t follow guidelines from federal and state health officials. The proposed rules would “create two classes of people” in the workplace, she told the board.
The proposed regulations set up “an inconsistent standard” between members of the public and employees of private and government workplaces, the California Chamber of Commerce and more than five dozen other business organizations said in a letter to the board.
“A fully vaccinated server could work a lunch shift at a restaurant, get off work, go home, change out of their uniform and then go out to dinner with their family or friends at the same restaurant in the evening and not be required to wear a mask, even though they had to wear a mask earlier in the day while at work,” added Katie Hansen, senior legislative director for the California Restaurant Association.
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