Update on Face Coverings in California
Conor J. Dale & Benjamin A. Tulis
In June, California relaxed many of its COVID-19 restrictions, including allowing fully vaccinated individuals to go without a face covering indoors, with limited exception. Also in June, Cal/OSHA passed an amended Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that allowed for fully vaccinated employees to go without a face covering in most situations.
However, as California started to see an increase in COVID-19 cases, many county health departments reinstated mask mandates regardless of an individual’s vaccination status, including Los Angeles and Counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. And in July, the California Department of Public Health also issued a recommendation for universal masking, though it was not a mandate.
As California heads into the end of the year, some counties are now setting up criteria to lift mask mandates.
At the start of October, the Bay Area Health Officers issued criteria for lifting indoor masking requirements. Under these criteria, the following would need to occur for indoor masking requirements to be lifted:
- The jurisdiction reaches the moderate (yellow) COVID-19 transmission tier as defined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and remains there for at least three weeks; and
- COVID-19 hospitalizations in the jurisdiction are low and stable, in the judgment of the health officer; and
- 80% of the jurisdiction’s total population is fully vaccinated; or 8 weeks have passed since the COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use for 5- to 11-year-olds.
Thus far, only Marin County has satisfied the criteria and lifted its mask mandate.
And at the start of November, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH) released its own framework for lifting its mask mandates.
For outdoor mega-events involving more than 10,000 people LADPH outlined that before masking requirements are lifted, all of the following criteria need to be met:
- L.A. County case rates must demonstrate three consecutive weeks at or below moderate transmission as defined by the CDC – that is, less than 50 new weekly cases per 100,000 residents;
- hospitalizations remain low and stable at or below 600 daily COVID hospitalizations for three consecutive weeks;
- 80% or more of county residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated; and,
- there are no emerging reports of significantly circulating new variants of concern that threaten vaccine effectiveness.
For masking requirements to be lifted at indoor events or establishments involving , including indoor offices and worksites,
- sites must have a vaccination verification process in place, and,
- All employees and customers must be fully vaccinated, accommodating with additional requirements those employees with approved exemptions.
- And L.A. County metrics must meet all of the same standards as for lifting masking requirements at outdoor mega-events.
Employers should continue to monitor local health departments, the California Department of Public Health, and Cal/OSHA for changes to COVID-19 workplace requirements.
***This article originally appeared on the Jackson Lewis’ Disability, Leave & Health Management blog and was reposted on the DMEC website with their permission.***