SACRAMENTO (KPIX) — New statewide rules regarding masks in the workplace are generating resistance and questions, even by the agency that created them.
In a marathon, hours-long session that ended Thursday night, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, rejected and then approved its new mask rules, sparking pushback and public confusion.READ MORE: UPDATE: Cal ISO Extends Flex Alert Into Friday; Bay Area, NorCal Heat Wave May Break Records
The new rules state that employees indoors in the same room do not have to wear masks if everyone is vaccinated. However, if even one person is unvaccinated, then everyone indoors must wear masks.
As for social distancing, employees must still maintain a safe distance while indoors if they are not wearing N95 masks, until July 31. Employees must also wear masks if working at an outdoor event with more than 10,000 people.
After July 31, employers will be required to provide N95 masks to unvaccinated workers.
At a press event to tout the state’s lottery vaccine incentive program that awards cash prizes to winners, Governor Gavin Newsom said it is “healthy” for governors to respect the process, but acknowledged Cal/OSHA’s flip-flopping vote.READ MORE: Gas Leak In San Francisco's Inner Richmond Prompts Shelter-In-Place, Evacuations
“Face coverings remain an important part of our arsenal to continue to mitigate the spread of this disease,” said Newsom. “But there’s still a lot of open-ended questions on the basis of what occurred last night. We’ll get those answered in the next days, and certainly within the next few weeks.”
Dr. Monica Gandhi, Professor of Medicine and Associate Chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at UCSF, blasted Cal/OSHA’s decision as “overkill” and said the agency is potentially undermining its credibility.
“Vaccines and immunity blows masks, distancing, and ventilation out of the water. The most important thing is getting immune to the virus. It’s still an idea that masks can protect us, even when we have immunity, and it’s hard to let go of. It’s not science-based,” said Gandhi.
Dr. Gandhi would also urge Governor Newsom to follow the lead of the New York.
“Come up with just a very clear metric, like New York has done to say, ‘No more masking indoors’ because we have such low cases for the unvaccinated. And we’re all vaccinated. And then you just cut it off, you just decide that people don’t have to mask. I would do that instead of what we’ve done today,” said Gandhi.MORE NEWS: Oakland's Mills College Looks At Potential Merger With Northeastern University, May Confer Degrees Again
Cal/OSHA has also voted to convene a subcommittee to study the newly approved mask rules to possibly revise them, yet again, before they take effect on the state’s grand reopening happening June 15.