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March 2022: California Governor and Department of Public Health Reduce Masking Requirements for Both Individuals and Employees

15 Mar


Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of California

What happened?
On February 28, 2022, The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) published an updated guidance loosening mask requirements for unvaccinated individuals and Governor Newsom issued a press release and Executive Order N-5-22 overriding Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), suspending the agency’s workplace requirement that unvaccinated workers wear masks in most indoor settings.

What are the details?
CDPH Updated Guidance

Effective March 1, 2022, unvaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks in indoor public settings, but it is highly encouraged regardless of vaccination status. Universal masking, however, will remain required in specified high-risk settings.

Subject to certain exemptions, the CDPH’s masking requirement for all, regardless of vaccination status, continues in the following settings:

  • Indoors in K-12 schools
  • On public transit (i.e., airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares) and in transportation hubs (i.e., airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation)
  • Emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers
  • Healthcare settings (applies to all healthcare settings, including those that are not covered by the State Health Officer Order issued on July 26, 2021)
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers
  • Homeless shelters
  • Long-term care settings and adult and senior care facilities

After March 11, 2022, the universal masking requirement for K-12 schools and childcare settings will end. The CDPH, however, continues to strongly recommend that individuals in these settings continue to mask in indoor settings when the universal masking requirement lifts.

Executive Order N-5-22

Effective immediately, Executive Order N-5-22 suspends the Cal/OSHA ETS requirement that unvaccinated employees wear masks while indoors or in vehicles. However, other sections of the Cal/OSHA ETS that require face coverings in certain scenarios have not been suspended. For the time being, face coverings are still required in the workplace as follows:

  • If the employer has onsite indoor health screening, the employees being screened and the screeners need to wear face coverings, regardless of vaccination status.
  • In the event of an “outbreak” or a “major outbreak,” employees in the exposed group must wear face coverings when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
  • For employees who have had a COVID-19 exposure and are either exempt from quarantine or ending their quarantine after day five, and for employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are returning to work after day five.

In addition, Governor Newsom’s Executive Order extended the 90-day effective period of the operative ETS by 21 days to May 6, 2022.

Employers must still provide face covering upon the request of an employee.

For more information, please see the links below:

Executive Order N-5-22

Governor Newsom Press Release

CDPH Updated Guidance

Cal/OSHA Fact Sheet (January 19, 2022)

Office of Governor Gavin Newsom Article

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links above, be on the lookout for new changes to the ETS, refer to local health departments for guidance in case of local mandates, and do their best to appropriately protect the health of their employees and guests.

In settings where masks are strongly recommended, the CDPH suggests that businesses, venue operators, or hosts should consider:

  • Providing information to all patrons, guests, and attendees regarding masking recommendations for all persons, regardless of vaccine status.
  • Providing information to all patrons, guests, and attendees to consider better fit and filtration for masks (surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit are recommended over cloth masks).
  • Requiring all patrons to wear masks, especially when risk in the community may be high, or if those being served are at high risk for severe disease or illness.
  • Requiring attendees who do not provide proof of vaccination to enter indoor Mega Events to continue masking during the event, especially when not actively eating or drinking. 

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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