California workers will still need to wear masks and practice social distancing at workplaces for at least a couple of weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom's June 15 target to fully reopen the state's economy.
A California state board on Wednesday withdrew proposed updates to its COVID workplace safety rule, meaning the current regulation — which requires masks to be worn at all times indoors, as well as outdoors if less than six feet away from others — will stay in effect for now.
The proposed updates had called for relaxing masking and social distancing requirements and letting workers not wear masks indoors if everyone else around them is fully vaccinated.
The proposal drew criticism from businesses, as it would have required fully vaccinated workers to wear masks indoors in contradiction to state and federal COVID-19 guidance.
The standards board of the state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health, commonly called Cal-OSHA, will consider updating its rule again on June 17 to better align with the state and federal guidance. Any update to the rule, if voted on by the board, will go into effect around June 28.
"Immediate action is also required to protect the public interest to avoid confusion regarding the requirements of the workplace safety standards, which would make both enforcement and compliance unduly difficult," board staff said in a letter calling for Wednesday's meeting.
The board only has two opportunities to change the rule. Withdrawing the proposed updates allows the board to change its rule again in the coming months, Executive Officer Christina Shupe said.
It's not clear what prompted board staff to call for the about-face.
The board staff told members at their meeting last week that any substantive changes to the rule could take until August to implement. Staff told members Wednesday that it will be able to draft revisions to the rule by next Thursday.
Newsom and the California Department of Public Health for weeks have also said — well before the board had its first vote last week — that fully vaccinated Californians won't need to wear masks indoors starting June 15.
California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomás J. Aragón participated on in the Wednesday night hearing. He did not weigh in on Cal-OSHA's rule but explained how the department came to the conclusion that fully vaccinated Californians won't need to wear masks indoors.
"The COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing infection, disease and spread," Aragón told the board.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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