California businesses baffled by various reopening rules – NBC Bay Area
California businesses remain baffled by the changing rules on who should wear masks and where, as the country’s largest state fully reopens after the pandemic on Tuesday.
While Governor Gavin Newsom’s health agency has said that those vaccinated will not need to wear face coverings in many public places, state regulators – following several long and heated debates contested – still write rules for workers.
Some business leaders are asking Newsom, which will likely face a fall recall election, to step in and order a single set of mask rules for California’s 40 million people.
“We asked the governor to issue an executive order to align the rules,” said Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council. “Otherwise, it’s just terribly confusing.
With the increase in vaccinations and the low number of coronavirus cases, California will end most mask rules on June 15 for those vaccinated while continuing to require face coverings for those not vaccinated in indoor public places and businesses. Everyone will need to remain masked in certain places such as public transport and indoor school yards.
As part of the system, businesses can rely on an honor system where customers must use a mask if they are not vaccinated but are not required to show proof.
“The publication of these guidelines clearly requiring that people, requiring the individual to self-certify their immunization status whether or not wearing a mask, will be the way – an approved way – to comply with this set of updates. California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said this week. Ghaly said companies can also require a vaccine check or face coverings if they wish.
But the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Council, which oversees workplaces, has drafted its own separate reopening rules. Last week, the board passed a rule that would have allowed workers to forgo masks only if every employee in a room was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Cal / OSHA board has since backed down and is considering changing these rules, but these won’t be reviewed until a June 17 meeting or will likely not take effect until the end of the month.
The rules apply in almost all workplaces in the state, including workers in offices, factories and retail businesses.
Robert Moutrie, a policy advocate at the California Chamber of Commerce, said the board’s decision to rework the rules is welcome, but more changes are needed. The chamber, for example, also opposes a proposal to require employers to provide the most effective N95 masks for voluntary use by unvaccinated employees who work indoors or at large outdoor events, claiming it would be costly and compete with the needs of healthcare workers.
“California needs consistency as it heads towards the opening on June 15,” Moutrie said in a statement.
Derrick Seaver, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Organization, said companies have struggled throughout the pandemic with a patchwork of approaches and a lack of consistency in guidelines. But he believes the state is moving in the right direction in seeking to synchronize with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on face coverings, and said local businesses were happy not to be forced to verify or to impose the wearing of a mask.
“By allowing these people to self-attest, we obviously allow them to take some personal responsibility for that certification,” Seaver said. “From a business standpoint, this avoids the thorny reporting and confidentiality issues” associated with vaccine administration.
“We’re going to get back to some semblance of normalcy, and obviously every step in that direction is a good day for business,” he said.