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California Drops Mask Requirements For Fully Vaccinated Workers

Joshua Morris tends to a rack of 3D printers making parts for face shields needed for medical care on Friday, April 3, 2020.
Andrew Nixon
Joshua Morris tends to a rack of 3D printers making parts for face shields needed for medical care on Friday, April 3, 2020.

Fully vaccinated Californians will soon be able to go without masks in the workplace after regulators approved new rules Thursday and Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly waived a waiting period for them to take effect.

Under the new rules, workers will no longer need to wear masks or physically distance themselves at work if they are fully vaccinated, except in certain situations or if there is an outbreak. Employers would be required to provide masks for unvaccinated workers.

The five-to-one vote came after four hours of public testimony. Dave Thomas, who chairs California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, noted the continued misinformation on masks and vaccines.

“If you have not been vaccinated, I wish that you would seriously consider it," Thomas said during the meeting. "Because I think it is probably the most important thing that you can do in these circumstances.”

The move comes two days after the state reopened its economy, which dropped mask requirements for fully vaccinated Californians in most situations. It also follows weeks of confusion within the group that oversees California's workplace safety regulations.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards board, also known as Cal/OSHA, has gone back and forth with its standards since June 3. At one point the group approved new rules, only to change them the next day before they took effect.

Following approval by Cal/OHSA, Newsom quickly signed an executive order to implement the rules immediately, waiving the standard 10-day review period.

Business groups, which have been calling for the state to remove mask requirements around the state's June 15 reopening, called the new rules "a step in the right direction." But a coalition of business groups said they will continue to push to drop requirements for employers to provide masks and other regulations.

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