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Mask rules for California workers set to stretch beyond June 15

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - California's full reopening on June 15 will mean an end to statewide distancing requirements and mask mandates in nearly all cases, but workplaces are facing a different set of rules.

On Thursday, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) voted to slightly modify workplace regulations: starting June 15, workers can remove their masks only if everyone is fully vaccinated or outside. Cal/OSHA is trying to protect the state's workers, particularly those who are unvaccinated.

The move could be modified in two weeks during the regulators' next scheduled meeting, or overruled by Gov. Gavin Newsom in the meantime.

For now, the stricter guidelines are causing some confusion and frustration among vaccinated people who want to go back to a pre-pandemic work environment.

“It’s difficult because you have so many agencies at this point trying to get it right, trying to protect workers as well as try to open the economy” Santa Barbara employment attorney David Myers said Friday. “I think the irony of it is that the rule is there to protect the unvaccinated employees, and it’s coming at a little bit of a cost for the vaccinated employees.”

That being said, Myers does not anticipate there will be enough outrage for widespread legal action against Cal/OSHA because the rules will likely get more relaxed this summer or fall.

“As to what we’re going to be looking at in August, September, October, I think that everybody’s optimistic that we continue to get better,” he said. “And those that might file an action might take a calculated decision that it’s just not worth it.”

Myers even thinks the stricter workplace rules could convince some people to get their COVID shot.

“You might see situations where people who were on the fence go out and get vaccinated, just because they know at that point when they come back to work everybody doesn’t have to wear a mask,” he said.

At Low Pigeon Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara, vaccinated employees say they have no issue wearing masks longer if it makes people who are unvaccinated feel more comfortable. The store will drop mask requirements for customers on June 15, when health leaders are expected to give approval.

“Obviously no one wants to wear the masks anymore,” wholesale director Rachel Geveden said. “They’re uncomfortable and it’s hot. But if that’s what we have to do, then we’re willing to do it until they say it’s safe.”

Community / Health / Santa Barbara - South County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County / Video
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Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Ryan, click here.

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