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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Regulators Withdraw Controversial California Work Mask Rules

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CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Above: A server tends to customers in an outdoor dining area amid the COVID-19 pandemic on The Promenade Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Santa Monica, Calif.

California’s workplace regulators have withdrawn a controversial pending mask regulation while they consider a rule that more closely aligns with Gov.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. Plus, a recent study found minority students are underrepresented when members of Congress nominate people to attend the nation’s elite military academies. Advocates are calling on Congress to make the 200-year-old nomination system more equitable for students of color. And the arts world is taking advantage of this perfect weather with plenty of performances beneath the stars, and the start of a week-long Juneteenth festival celebrating Black theater, poetry and music.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The new guidance coming on masks in the workplace. As far

Speaker 2: 00:04 As I can tell for at least two days, all workers will probably be wearing masks at their workplace.

Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS mid-day edition, the disparities among those pitch to attend America's elite military academies.

Speaker 3: 00:30 I were to do one thing. It would be to focus on outreach and training the local office of members of Congress. Plus

Speaker 1: 00:39 The Juneteenth celebration starting this weekend and more in the weekend preview that's ahead on midday edition 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: 01:39 Hey, thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: 01:42 There's been a lot of back and forth at Cal OSHA 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: 01:51 So Cal 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: 02:51 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,

Speaker 2: 03:00 Right? So the story was part of my weekly economy meter series, where I talked to six economist and six business leaders. And so that comes out to 12 answers. So 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 nos. 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. 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: 03:54 All right. So come June 17th, right. Do you know how the new guidance is expected to be different from previous guidance?

Speaker 2: 04:02 You know, 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 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: 04:51 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: 05:02 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 Kelo, should I 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: 05:43 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: 05:54 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: 06:26 Right? So, uh, what types of workplaces will still require a mask?

Speaker 2: 06:32 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: 06:50 Right? I think that the whole list includes hospitals, public transit schools, and other youth settings that are indoors also homeless shelters and correctional facilities. I've been speaking with Phil Molnar reporter with the San Diego union Tribune. Phil, thank you so much. Thank you. A recent study found minority students are underrepresented. When members of Congress nominate people to attend the nation's elite military academies, advocates are calling on Congress to make the 200 year old nomination system more equitable for students of color Deseret Diorio reports for the American Homefront project.

Speaker 3: 07:38 Nominations are required by law for students who want to study at military service academies. If they can get one and meet the academy strict standards for admission, it means a free education in exchange for five years of service, the Connecticut veterans legal center analyzed over two decades of congressional nominations. The center's director, Liam Brennan says the results are stark.

Speaker 4: 08:00 Young black Americans make up about 15% of the young adult population, but black students only receive 6% of current members nominations. The military service academies. That's a great big differential.

Speaker 3: 08:12 I found similar disparities for Latinos. 8% get nominations, even though they make up about 22% of young adults, we

Speaker 4: 08:20 Expected to see discrepancies. The extent of the discrepancies were surprising. Brennan

Speaker 3: 08:24 And others who've studied the issue. Say there are a lot of reasons for those discrepancies. Some are rooted in a lack of equity in public schools, others involve how hard members of Congress work to find diverse nominees. Danielle Anderson is with the black veterans project. She graduated from the Naval academy, but says few minority teenagers are even aware. That's an option. Her junior ROTC commander suggested she give it

Speaker 4: 08:49 A shot. You had some conversations. What a service academy even is. I really had no idea of Anderson says

Speaker 3: 08:56 Even minority students who do know about the academies might not feel like they'd be welcome there or successful due to racism,

Speaker 4: 09:04 Microaggressions, sometimes macroaggressions. And this continues throughout your tenure throughout your career. And you're still expected to perform at the highest levels of anyone your age that

Speaker 3: 09:16 Could lead to fewer applicants of color. Democratic Congressman Anthony Brown of Maryland says there's a lack of qualified minority students who ask him for a nomination. I have

Speaker 4: 09:26 A, an underrepresented applicant pool African-American and Latino students are not applying at the same levels that I, I want them to apply. The

Speaker 3: 09:37 Report found just 38% of Brown's nominations went to applicants of color in his majority minority

Speaker 4: 09:43 District part hardest to squeeze the very best out of the small pool. And we actually over-perform when it comes to appointments, some

Speaker 3: 09:51 Lawmakers say, if you want to nominate more diverse applicants, go out and find them. Students sometimes need to be told the pathway to college is open to you. And that's true for the service academies as well. That's former air force secretary and former Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson. She nominated hundreds of students to the academies and she's an air force academy, alum herself. She says some lawmakers and their staffs need to put more effort into the nomination process. For some people it's just not a high enough priority to spend time training members of Congress on how to do this. If I were to do one thing, it would be to focus on outreach and training the local office of members of Congress, but Wilson. Now the president of the university of Texas at El Paso defends the congressional nomination system, she says, it's a good way to ensure the militaries.

Speaker 3: 10:44 Future leaders come from all over the country. As the size of the military has gone down. There are communities and regions of the country that have very little connection to the military at all. And the nomination process helps fight against that by geographic dispersion of nominations, a recently passed law aims to standardize the way congressional offices collect demographic data on their nominees and make it more transparent. But there are no plans to change the nomination system, which has been lost since 1802. When Thomas Jefferson established the military academy at Westpoint I'm Deseret Diorio on long island. This

Speaker 1: 11:23 Story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American middle and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. You're listening to KPBS midday edition I'm Jade Hindman this weekend, the arts world is taking advantage of this perfect with plenty of performances beneath the stars and the start of a week long Juneteenth festival celebrating black theater, poetry and music. Joining me is KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans, with all the details. Julia, welcome. Hi Jane. Thanks for having me. All right. First, you know, before we dig into the outdoor offerings, how about something for those of us, who'd prefer to stay home. The Wagner new play festival was underway. Tell us what we can find there. This is

Speaker 5: 12:20 The annual new playwriting festival it's out of the UC San Diego department of theater and dance where their MFA students are tasked with creating and producing new works. The festival this year is hosting four original audio plays and one animated play. There's one that's set in outer space. There's one where a character's best friend is a cat. I also loved backwater, which is a play by [inaudible]. It's about an LGBTQ couple. They fall in love. They get married a bit too quickly and they go on their honeymoon kind of to discover each other and all the baggage of their families and ancestry, and also the great outdoors. Here's a clip. It's

Speaker 6: 13:01 So, still so quiet. The most serene place you'll find in all the world. It's beautiful healing. Perfect. Apart from all these mosquitoes, they're not too bad. Do you have the mosquito repellent? Okay. Thanks. I think that's enough, babe. Better. Let's hope so. Is this everything you wanted? Yes. Somewhere we can finally slow down and just be together away from all the noise.

Speaker 5: 13:35 So that's any territories backwater and the animated play. That's end times by Keiko green. It's about a group of ragtag retail employees who are faced with a corporate sponsored apocalypse and that animated play will be the final installment tonight, right?

Speaker 1: 13:54 Oh, the Wagner new play festival features for audio plays available to stream on Spotify and apple podcast and a final animated play launching tonight at seven 30, sticking with emerging talent, San Diego dance theater is presenting their annual young choreographer showcase and they're moving it outdoors. Tell us about this show. This

Speaker 5: 14:14 Closes out the month long dances in the air festival. These are all shows that have been taking place on Liberty stations, new outdoor stage and San Diego dance theaters, young choreographers showcase. It features the work of four choreographers, Lucy silliness, Kevin Truet, ADESA Nuno and Stephanie Vazquez. All of them were originally selected in the 2020 competition. And that was scheduled for March 14th, 2020. And if you remember, that was the first weekend of all of those local cancellations for the pandemic. These three performances this weekend, the audience will get a chance to vote their audience favorite at each show. And a panel of judges will pick a winning choreographer and dancer as well.

Speaker 1: 14:57 The San Diego dance theaters, young choreographers showcase with performances on the outdoor stage at Liberty station tonight and Saturday at 6:30 PM and Sunday at two 30. Also outdoors mainly Mozart's kicks off their all star orchestra festival at the surf cup sports park in Del Mar this weekend. What can we expect?

Speaker 5: 15:18 Yeah, this is a departure from their drive in musical performances. They were one of the first to start doing those driving shows too. And they're doing it now. So audiences can just be seated at an outdoor table or picnic style setup, and you're seated with your pod. In fact, you only need to get one ticket for up to four people who can sit together. And for this particular festival, they bring together principals and concept masters from across the country to pull off two shows this weekend, another on Wednesday, and then two more next weekend. The show tonight's almost entirely sold out. You'd have to contact the box office directly to get tickets, but Saturdays 8:00 PM concert has more seating available. It includes [inaudible], which is a beautiful six movement suite for solo piano. They have heightens very Regal trumpet concerto and this Mozart symphony number 39 in E flat.

Speaker 7: 16:37 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 16:37 Mainly Mozart's all star orchestra festival holds outdoor performances tonight and Saturday at 8:00 PM at the Del Mar surf cup sports park. On Sunday, we begin a week long festival celebrating black artists, theater, poetry, and music at the Carlsbad flower fields. Tell us about it. The, say it loud Juneteenth festival.

Speaker 5: 16:58 Yeah. This is a project of the San Diego black artists collective they've paired with several theaters in San Diego. There's the old globe LA Jolla Playhouse, new village arts Moxy diversionary and San Diego rep. There's some in-person outdoor events, not just at Carlsbad flower fields. And you can also stream three original plays written by local black playwrights. Plus next weekend on the actual Juneteenth holiday, there'll be a really big artists for black lives event in Bella park, but it all starts this Sunday evening at the flower fields. It's part of new village arts theaters residency there. Stacey Evans will sing the black national Anthem. There'll be short plays performed on stage and some poetry readings. They'll also do a presentation of colors with the help of the Buffalo soldier mounted cavalry unit. This is a historic reenactment group that honors the contributions, black mounted soldiers in the late 18 hundreds. These tickets are free, but you have to reserve a seat in advance and spots are filling up quickly.

Speaker 1: 17:58 Loud. Juneteenth festival kicks off Sunday at 6:00 PM at the Carlsbad flower fields for details on these and more weekend arts events or to sign up for Julia's weekly KPBS arts newsletter go to kpbs.org/arts KPBS mid day edition wants to know if you'll go to live performances once the county reopens next week, or are you still a bit apprehensive? Go to kpbs.org and share your thoughts. I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dickson Evans. Julia.

Speaker 5: 18:30 Thanks. Thank you, Jade. Have a great weekend.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.