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Cal/OSHA Debates Extending Workplace Mask Rules Past June 15

Surf shop worker Scat wears a mask while carrying a surfboard at Bird's Surf ...

Photo by Gregory Bull / Associated Press

Above: Surf shop worker Scat wears a mask while carrying a surfboard at Bird's Surf Shed. Friday, May 8, 2020.

While California's pandemic restrictions are set to be lifted on June 15, one rule may stay in place past that date.

A California Occupational Safety and Health committee has been meeting all day Thursday to consider extending mask requirements in the workplace, unless all employees are vaccinated. The extension would last until July 31, 2021.

Business leaders say that’s contrary to what Governor Newsom has said and to the CDC’s guidelines.

Jerry Sanders is President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. He said a separate standard for workplaces would be confusing.

“They’re going to have a lot of people coming in there who have listened to the Governor saying you don’t need to wear a mask, and listened to the CDC which says you don’t have to wear a mask, and then Cal/OSHA is saying you do. It’s so confusing (not just) for all business, but just people in general,” the Chamber President said.

RELATED: California To Drop Social Distancing Requirements In June

He also said an extension would be an obstacle for businesses trying to recover from the pandemic.

“If they vote to uphold those guidelines, there’s going to be kind of chaos in the business world because not all businesses are set up to have an HR department and all of that,” Sanders said. “A lot of small businesses (with) four or five employees and they’re not going to be sure what to do.”

Sanders said there are many legal issues concerning liability that could arise if Cal/OSHA approves an extension to their Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS).

“Once they issue that guideline, then employers have to abide by that. They don’t have a choice. So, OSHA is setting businesses up to fail,” Sanders said.

He also argued an extension "puts us into a very ambiguous position of, 'Do we violate employee’s rights, or do we violate the rights of customers or students or others when we try to ascertain whether they have been vaccinated or not?'”

Sanders says the Chamber is prepared to take action on behalf of its 2,500 members.

“We’ll continue fighting. We’ll have to fight for our members," he said. "I mean, small businesses really depend on chambers all across the state to represent their interests because they can’t afford to hire lobbyists or people who can talk to the governor.”

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Melissa Mae
Freelance Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a freelance reporter, I cover a wide variety of stories. One day I may cover the current COVID-19 situation and the next day my story may be about a San Diego landmark. With a background in sports broadcasting, any time I get to cover a sports story is an added bonus! I love covering stories about the place I am lucky enough to call home, San Diego.

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