As we previously reported here, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted last week to amend Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) so that new mask and physical distance rules will apply in California workplaces effective June 15, 2021.  Now, less than four days later, the Standards Board has called a special board meeting for June 9 to consider “new information from the California Department of Public Health on pending guidance regarding COVID-19 Prevention, and take action if appropriate.” The Standards Board will hold this special meeting in advance of its regularly-scheduled Standards Board meeting on June 17.  Employers should watch this new twist in the Cal/OSHA ETS saga closely.

New information from CDPH

The Standards Board called the special meeting because it received a June 7 letter from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). That letter notes that more than two thirds of adult Californians are now fully vaccinated, the state has a positivity rate below 1%, and COVID-19 case counts are low and stable. Given these facts, the letter outlines in detail CDPH’s plans and upcoming guidance for masks and distancing for the general public after June 15:

  • Face coverings will no longer be required for fully vaccinated Californians in public settings, except in the settings where Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that all individuals should wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status, such as healthcare settings and long-term care facilities, public transit, and sheltering operations. CDPH will align its face coverings guidance with the CDC by requiring face coverings for all individuals in those unique settings.
  • CDPH will align its face coverings guidance with the CDC by requiring face coverings for all unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses.
  • In settings where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals, CDPH’s guidance will advise that businesses may choose to allow individuals to self-attest their vaccine status, implement vaccine verification measures, or require all patrons to wear masks. CDPH also will affirm that no person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.
  • CDPH’s updated face coverings guidance will continue to recognize that in workplaces, employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS or in some workplaces the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard, and employers should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements.

The June 9 special meeting

The meeting agenda for the June 9 special meeting includes briefings from CDPH and Cal/OSHA staff on the ETS amendments, as well as a public comment period (which thankfully will last only 2 hours unlike the June 3 meeting’s nearly 8 hour public comment period). After the briefings and public comment, the Board will consider the impact of the presented information on the COVID-19 ETS.

Though we can’t know for certain, the June 9 special meeting is likely to result in the Standards Board giving Cal/OSHA staff specific direction on further proposed amendments to the ETS.  Any such amendments can’t be voted on during the June 9 meeting, but employers should nevertheless follow developments closely.  As always, contact your Baker McKenzie employment attorney for help with any of these issues or other employment needs.