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California safety board says people can drop their masks in the workplace if everyone there is vaccinated

Posted at 5:53 PM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 22:52:45-04

A California safety board voted Thursday to relax mask-wearing in the workplace if everyone there is vaccinated, but these proposed rules differ from federal guidelines.

It’s causing confusion for some and delaying full reopening as millions of people pass on the vaccine.

“We've got different guidelines coming down from different organizations and that is confusing,” said Douglas MacMillan, owner of Ada’s Fish House.

For people working at restaurants, retail, or with the public, it's possible they will need to keep their masks on for now.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) voted to allow workers to take off their masks if everyone is vaccinated and not showing COVID-19 symptoms, but if not, you should mask up.

Tigerlily salon owner Lorella Ellsworth said this doesn't change her current operations.

“We had already discussed due to the fact that we have different stylists with different health conditions that the mask was going to be something we continue until we saw the effect of masks coming off on June 15th had on our community,” Ellsworth said.

She said she wants to respect people's decisions to get vaccinated or not.

“I don't want to walk around the salon some of us masked and some of us not masked because it points out our differences and I think we should all respect and all wear a mask,” Ellsworth added.

The new rules are awaiting review by the State Office of Administrative Law. If approved, they could go into effect on June 15, the same day the state is set to drop virtually all social distancing and mask-wearing rules.

A spokeswoman for Governor Gavin Newsom's office said in a statement, "We appreciate the board’s actions to maintain worker safety and are 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.”

"If we try and pick battles that are unwinnable, then we waste too much energy on that. Our staff becomes confused and it makes it harder to do business, so we just follow the directions as it's laid out from the government, whatever agency that is," said Ron Meier, local bar and restaurant owner. "We look forward to being able to reopen fully and without regulation and we feel that as long as we do what is asked of us, the quicker we will get to the end of this."

For now, many employers are erring on the side of caution.

“I don't think I'm going to upset a customer if I'm wearing a mask, but I will upset a customer if I'm not wearing a mask,” Macmillan said. “So we are going to wear masks for now and we can just wait for the rulings or guidance to come down from all departments and they are all the same."

Even if you are not working, many businesses may still require their customer or client to wear masks while entering and moving around if not everyone is vaccinated.

Cal/OSHA says enforcement of these rules could come from complaints, targeted inspections of high-hazard industries, and notification of work-related serious injuries or illnesses.

“Cal/OSHA also creates guidance and education materials to help employers comply with their responsibilities and help workers to know their rights,” a spokesperson for Cal/OSHA said in an email to KSBY.

Click here for more information on the Cal/OSHA-adopted revisions on mask-wearing in the workplace.