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California lifts workplace mask requirements for fully vaccinated employees

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted Thursday to allow fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing masks and physical distancing in the workplace. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

By Christine Tran and Victoria Li

June 17, 2021 6:12 p.m.

Fully vaccinated workers can stop mask-wearing and physical distancing in the workplace, according to new guidelines approved Thursday. 

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved revised COVID-19-related worksite guidelines Thursday with a 5-1 vote.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Thursday to forgo the usual 10-day review period after a standard is approved by the board and instead the rules will go into effect as soon as they are filed with the secretary of state.

The change comes after California lifted mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals in most public settings Tuesday, in line with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier in May.

[Related: California to enter final stage of reopening plan, relaxing mask requirements

Approved standards from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health still require all unvaccinated employees to wear masks indoors unless they are alone, eating and drinking or have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Employers must provide masks to unvaccinated workers if requested.

The standards also hold employers responsible for enforcing state COVID-19 guidelines and reporting outbreaks to the local health department. Clear partitions to reduce COVID-19 transmission are also no longer required in the workplace. 

In a campuswide email Tuesday, UCLA administrators said all fully vaccinated UCLA employees are no longer required to wear face coverings after the guidelines are approved Thursday, even if unvaccinated co-workers are present. Physical distancing will be used only in the event of an outbreak, administrators added. 

In the past month, there have been more than 10,000 workplace infections and 700 workplace outbreaks in California, said Eric Berg, Cal/OSHA deputy chief of health at the board meeting.

Employers in California may choose to verify employees’ vaccination statuses by requiring either proof or self-reporting. They may also continue requiring masks in the workplace, regardless of employees’ vaccination statuses.

The new Cal/OSHA guidelines also expand the definition of fully vaccinated individuals to include those who received any vaccine allowed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Christine Tran | National news and higher education editor
Tran is the 2021-2022 national news and higher education editor in addition to being a contributor for Enterprise. She is also a fourth-year political science student at UCLA.
Tran is the 2021-2022 national news and higher education editor in addition to being a contributor for Enterprise. She is also a fourth-year political science student at UCLA.
Victoria Li | Science and Health editor
Li is the 2021-2022 science and health editor. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student at UCLA who enjoys writing about research and public health.
Li is the 2021-2022 science and health editor. She was previously a contributor for the science and health beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student at UCLA who enjoys writing about research and public health.
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