Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Regulators Withdraw Controversial California Work Mask Rules

 June 11, 2021 at 9:33 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:02 To mask or not to mask while at work. It's the question. Cal OSHA and largely the business community have been debating last week. The state regulatory agency released proposed guidance for employees who are not vaccinated to keep wearing masks while employees who are can take them off the guidance, left more questions about how such action would be regulated and who would collect vaccine verification today CalOSHA is expected to release its final revision on wearing masks in the workplace. Phil Molnar with the San Diego union Tribune has been following this developing story and joins us with what we can expect. Phil. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:40 Hey, thank you so much for having me. Uh, Speaker 1: 00:41 There's been a lot of back and forth at CalOSHA on its guidance for masks in the workplace. Catch us up on what's happened in the last week and where that leaves us today. Speaker 2: 00:51 So kale OSHA decided about two weeks ago at their meeting that every worker had to wear a mask. If not everyone in the room is vaccinated. And that would extend past June 15th, which is the supposed reopening of California, where everything goes back to normal. They got a lot of pushback from that. And there were some indications from the board itself that they didn't plan that to go that long or anything like that. So basically on Wednesday they held an emergency meeting, uh, where they discussed, they suggested, but they didn't do it the way the procedure works. They only suggested that they would consider sort of similar to CDC that they would actually just require people that were not vaccinated to wear masks in the workplace. So that meeting is coming up June 17th, which means June 15th is the reopening. So as far as I can tell for at least two days, all workers will probably be wearing masks at their workplace. Speaker 1: 01:51 And Phil, for your story, you interviewed a number of people from various industries. Where did people fall in terms of how they felt about Callow? She has guidance, right? Speaker 2: 02:01 So the story was part of my weekly economy meter series, where I talked to six economists and six business leaders. And so that comes out to 12 answers. We basically just asked if Cal OSHA had made the right decision on masks as it stands right now. And we got nine, no answers. And then obviously a couple more, uh, yes answers, but it was heavily weighted in nose. And a lot of people are worried about the guidance. They think that Cal OSHA got it wrong. And it's just going to create more hurdles for California, which has already had some of the strictest COVID restrictions throughout the entire nation throughout the pandemic. So they're worried that this is just another burden on California businesses when everyone just wants to get reopened. However, for the yes answers, I will say a lot of people said, they're still concerned about variants and if you really want to be safe and you care about everybody, maybe it's better just to have the masks on for a little while longer. Speaker 1: 02:54 All right. So come June 17th, right. Do you know how the new is expected to be different from previous guidance? Speaker 2: 03:02 No, I'm not sure. Other than it seems like they're suggesting that not everyone will have to wear masks if someone is not vaccinated. So that's, that's the biggest thing I think that employers want to know about, because right now the business community is very confused by what to do. Um, this week I talked to a lot of different industries, but one of them in particular was gyms and gyms. You know, it's weird because, okay, so the California guidelines are for our room. So if everyone in the room is not vaccinated, you all need to wear masks. Well, if you think about it at a gym is a big room, you know, so some gym owners are talking about, okay, well, I'm just going to have all my employees wear masks, but customers don't have to. And then other gyms who have just responded to me that basically they don't know what to do. So there's waiting to see what the state says. Speaker 1: 03:51 Yeah. I mean, let's talk about that a little bit more. I mean, last week's Cal OSHA meeting went more than eight hours with people from the business community weighing in, uh, what were their main concerns? Speaker 2: 04:02 No, one of the things, uh, from a business standpoint that they're worried about is creating some sort of tiered system of workers where, uh, vaccinated workers will need to, you know, feel the pressure of their coworkers to get vaccinated. Because if everybody has to wear a mask, just because that one guy in the room doesn't want to get the vaccine that could create some tensions in the workforce. Also kalosha had discussed providing and 95 masks to workers. They're not super cheap. So that would be an extra business expense that businesses need, uh, that businesses will have to endure despite probably some losses during COVID, depending on the industry. Speaker 1: 04:43 And you spoke to a number of business leaders, as you mentioned. And what did they say about how difficult it would be for employers to implement vaccine verification measures? Speaker 2: 04:54 Yeah, so I believe the legal standing is that California can actually ask an employee if they are vaccinated. But one of the concerns, they have a lot of the business leaders with this, this move, as it stands in place is it's pretty easy to lie that you've been vaccinated. So you could do that right there. And then also just worried about morale issues in the workplace. You know, if everyone, okay, show me your card, kind of stuff like that. Like it's a headache on businesses, a burden on them that they don't want to have. Speaker 1: 05:26 Right. So, uh, what types of workplaces will still require a mask? Speaker 2: 05:32 Uh, different places like nursing homes, hospitals, schools, things that you might expect. Um, there's still a real concern about the variants out there that could actually still be caught if you have a vaccine. And there's still a lot of unknown things about the virus. So people are being a little more safe than sorry. Speaker 1: 05:50 Right? I think that the whole list includes the hospitals, public transit schools and other youth that are indoors also homeless shelters and correctional facilities. I've been speaking with Phil Moner reporter with the San Diego union Tribune. Phil, thank you so much. Speaker 3: 06:07 Thank you. Speaker 4: 06:15 [inaudible].

Ways To Subscribe
California’s workplace regulators have withdrawn a controversial pending mask regulation while they consider a rule that more closely aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promise that the state will fully reopen from the pandemic on Tuesday.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments