California will let fully vaccinated workers go maskless after Thursday, June 17, pending a vote from the state's workplace safety board, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
Newsom said he will issue an executive order on Thursday codifying the state's new COVID workplace safety rule, which lets fully vaccinated California workers not wear masks at work and also ends social distancing. Those not vaccinated will still have to wear masks when working indoors or in vehicles.
"That should clear up any ambiguity," Newsom said Monday. "We'll be consistent with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's) guidelines."
The standards board of the state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health, commonly called Cal-OSHA, is expected to approve the rule at its June 17 meeting. But without the executive order, the earliest the rule could go into effect would have been June 28, because of the administrative process.
Under the rule — which has changed repeatedly — workers can request masks from employers at no cost and wear them at work regardless of vaccination status. Employers are also required to provide respirators such as N95 masks for unvaccinated workers who want them when they are working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person.
California will provide "large quantities" of masks for those workers who want to have them, Newsom said.
Businesses, which have hammered the Cal-OSHA board over what they considered confusing and hard-to-implement rules, praised the latest version, which was made public late Friday.
"We thank Governor Gavin Newsom for eliminating confusion and working to ensure the state re-opens on June 15th with consistent standards for all based on CDC and (the California Department of Public Health) guidelines," the California Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
But labor organizations and worker advocates said they are concerned the state's rule will let those not vaccinated not wear masks. Under the CDPH guideline, businesses can let their customers self-attest their vaccination status.
In a statement Monday, the California Nurses Association urged the public to keep wearing masks and practice social distancing, citing the fact that children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
"CNA has long advocated for an approach to controlling COVID-19 that follows the precautionary principle, which says it's best to take the safer route even before we know for sure whether something is harmful or not," the association said in its statement. "These latest moves by the state of California are motivated by politics, not the science about the virus."
Newsom said the state is not done fighting the pandemic, citing low vaccination rates in counties such as Lassen, where about a quarter of its population is fully immunized. He said he hopes those not fully vaccinated will continue to wear masks, but acknowledged he has to hope people will be honest about their status.
"We recommend, consistent with the CDC, that if you haven't been vaccinated and you're in public or you're in a large indoor setting, we encourage mask-wearing. That's the CDC framework," Newsom said. "But again, it's on the basis of trust, and that's the system that is in place nationally, and it's the system in place in the state of California."
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