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California drops workplace mask rule for vaccinated workers

Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday signed an executive order enabling the revisions to take effect without the normal 10-day review period.
Credit: Adobe Stock

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif — California regulators have approved revised worksite pandemic rules that allow fully vaccinated employees the same freedoms as when they are off the job. The revised regulations adopted Thursday come after weeks of confusion. They conform with general state guidelines by ending most mask rules for people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved them on a 5-1 vote. Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday signed an executive order enabling the revisions to take effect without the normal 10-day review period by the Office of Administrative Law – providing clarity and consistency for employers and employees as California fully reopens its economy.

Ensuring workplaces throughout the state have consistent guidance as California officially moves Beyond the Blueprint, the emergency regulations will take effect upon their filing with the Secretary of State.

With over 40 million vaccines administered and amongst the lowest case rates and transmission rates in the nation, the state fully reopened on June 15, eliminating pandemic-related restrictions that have been in place over the past year.

Current mask guidance in California

On June 15, most COVID-19 restrictions throughout California ended as the state retired its 'Blueprint for a Safer Economy' tier system and lifted capacity and physical distancing restrictions for most businesses and activities. 

Do I need to wear masks in grocery stores, gyms and retails stores?

People who are fully vaccinated can resume normal activities without wearing a face covering, they can go to the grocery stores, gyms and retail stores. 

Under California's mask guidance, which aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unvaccinated individuals will be required to continue wearing face coverings in indoor public settings and indoor businesses.

Where are masks still required?

According to the California Department of Public Health, masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status:

  • On public transportation including airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares. Also in transportation hubs such as airport, bus terminal, marinas, train stations and subway stations.
  • Indoors in K-12 schools and childcare centers (this may change pending updates from the CDC).
  • Healthcare and long-term care facilities.

  • Correctional facilities and detention centers.

  • Homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers.

Could businesses still require masks?

In settings where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals, businesses, venue operators or hosts may choose to:

  • Provide information to all patrons, guests and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.
  • Implement vaccine verification to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask.
  • Require all patrons, including fully vaccinated individuals, to wear masks.
  • No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

Are large gatherings (concerts, sporting events, festivals, and conventions) subject to some restrictions?

Some public health measures are still in place for large, or mega events, which include 5,000+ people indoors or 10,000+ outdoors. 

  • Indoor mega events with more than 5,000 attendees will be required to confirm proof of vaccination or negative covid-19 status to attend. 
  • Outdoor mega events with more than 10,000 attendees will be strongly encouraged to do so.

Do I need to wear a mask at work if I am fully vaccinated?

California regulators have approved revised worksite pandemic rules that allow fully vaccinated employees the same freedoms as when they are off the job. The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved them on a 5-1 vote on Thursday, June 17.  

Who is exempt from wearing masks?

The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

  • Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

Have you been fully vaccinated?

In general, people are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

If you don’t meet these requirements, regardless of your age, you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.

How do I find a COVID-19 vaccine?

There are several ways you can look for vaccination providers near you in the United States.

  • Visit Vaccines.gov to find vaccination providers near you. In some states, information may be limited while more U. S. vaccination providers and pharmacies are being added. Learn more about COVID-19 Vaccination Locations on Vaccines.gov.
  • Text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find vaccine locations near you in the United States.
  • Check your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination appointments are available. Find out which pharmacies are participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
  • Contact your state health department to find additional vaccination locations in the area.
  • Check your local news outlets. They may have information on how to get a vaccination appointment.