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California Workplace Regulators Withdraw Controversial Mask Rules to Comply with State Guidelines

Workplace regulators in California have turned for the second time in a week on Wednesday, withdrawing a controversial upcoming mask ordinance, while they see it as a rule that is more closely in line with Gov. Gavin Newsum’s promise that the state will be fully open by the pandemic on tuesday.

A revised California Occupational Safety and Health Council rule, passed last week after initially being rejected, would allow workers to give up masks only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. This contrasts with the broader plan of the state to remove virtually all requirements for masking and social distancing of vaccinated people in accordance with the latest recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

Withdrawal of this site rule before it takes effect allows the board to consider changes to its June 1

7 meeting and potentially take effect by the end of the month.

The purpose of the unanimous vote, board chairman David Thomas, is to change the rules of the workplace “to match the CDC and the California Department of Public Health so that we are all on the same page.” This is what we are talking about, so we are not in step with everyone else. “

Security Council staff have not specified what changes they will recommend next week, except to try to align workplace rules more closely with public health guidelines.

But Eric Berg, deputy chief of health at California’s Occupational Safety and Health Department, known as Cal / OSHA, said public health guidelines usually allow anyone who is vaccinated to forget to wear a mask indoors. According to these rules, he said that “the vaccinated person should not wear a mask at work.”

The turnaround came after state health official Dr. Thomas Aragon reiterated to board members at an urgently scheduled special meeting that the state would end next week’s most camouflage rules for people who have been vaccinated, while continuing to demand coverage for persons for unvaccinated people in closed public establishments and businesses.

Exceptions where everyone must remain disguised include public transportation, classes in closed schools, health and correctional facilities, and places such as shelters for homeless and cooling centers, Aragon said. Individual companies are also free to require everyone to remain disguised under the general rules, he said.

Helen Cleary, director of Filmar’s regulatory roundtable, a coalition of big business with large operations in California, was among the many business representatives calling on the board to abide by its public health rule.

“Employers can’t plan with this high level of uncertainty,” she said. “We are disappointed and frustrated by the confusion, the process, the nature and the lack of leadership.”

The board’s more restrictive approach in the workplace put Newsom in an awkward position as it fought for an upcoming recall election, although it did not want to replace the board it appointed.

“The public makes no distinction between this council and the rest of the Newsom administration,” Michael Miller, director of government relations for California vineyards, told board members before the vote. “What they hear is that the Newsom administration says wearing masks in the workplace can be here to stay.”

Pressure on the board intensified when a dozen business groups, including the California Retailers Association and organizations representing producers, farmers, tourism interests and other industries, sent a letter to Newsom asking it to issue an immediate order to repeal the board’s regulations.

Requiring masks, unless everyone is vaccinated in the workplace, would “create another barrier to re-employment and renewal at a time when” we need to provide incentives for people to return, “they said. They also said that requiring masks for people who are completely inoculated could lead society to believe that the vaccine was not really effective.

Representatives of business organizations at Wednesday’s meeting repeatedly asked the board to repeal its pandemic rules altogether and to rely on Cal / OSHA’s main body to protect workers. Defenders of the staff objected that the pandemic was not over and that coronavirus variants posed a threat.

Board member Laura Stoke said it was important to continue to protect employees who do not have a realistic choice but to go to work.

For example, government data shows that in the retail sector over the past 30 days, “there have been 70 outbreaks, more than two a day,” said Stoke, who heads the Occupational Medicine Program at UC Berkeley. “Epidemics are still happening.”

Business groups also want the board to withdraw its proposal to require employers to start providing the most effective N95 masks for voluntary use by employees who work indoors or at large outdoor events and are not fully vaccinated as of July 31st. This would be expensive and would compete according to the needs of health workers, they said.

But “the N95 is the one who checked all these boxes” for safety, Stoke said.

The regulations on board Cal / OSHA apply to almost every workplace in the state, including workers in offices, factories and retail. Its pandemic rules apply to all employees except those working from home or when there is one employee who has no contact with other people.

Even before Wednesday’s vote, board members stressed that their revised rules were temporary and they appointed a subcommittee to continue working on the revisions.

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