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June 10, 2021
California withdraws revised COVID-19 rules

On June 9, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted in a special meeting to withdraw revisions to the state’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standards (ETSs) the board had voted to approve on June 3. The revisions had been sent to the state’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for review. During its special meeting, the board considered the latest guidance on masking from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

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The revised ETS approved June 3 would have removed requirements for physical distancing and barriers by July 31. Fully vaccinated workers without COVID-19 symptoms would not have needed to wear face coverings in a room where everyone else was fully vaccinated and not showing symptoms. California’s emergency rules, originally approved in November 2020, remain in force.

The five state ETSs approved in November cover COVID-19 prevention, multiple COVID-19 infections and COVID-19 outbreaks, major COVID-19 outbreaks, COVID-19 prevention in employer-provided housing, and COVID-19 prevention in employer-provided transportation to and from work. Those rules remain in effect with their requirements for a written prevention program, providing face coverings and ensuring their use, physical distancing, recordkeeping, removing exposed workers and COVID-19-positive workers, and training.

The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) will review the new mask guidance and bring any recommended revisions to the board. The board could consider new revisions at a future meeting. The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for June 17.

California’s revised emergency standards were expected to go into effect no later than June 15 pending OAL approval. The board voted unanimously to withdraw the revisions, which were at the OAL and not yet effective.

Under California administrative law, emergency standards remain in effect for 180 days. The standards board may twice readopt temporary standards for an additional 90-day period each.

The seven-member board, whose members are appointed by the governor, set workplace safety and health regulations within the Cal/OSHA program.

The state of regulation and guidance for workplace COVID-19 exposures remains in flux. There is no federal COVID-19 ETS or infectious disease standard. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) submitted text of a federal COVID-19 ETS to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on April 26. That rule is still undergoing regulatory review.

Michigan, Oregon, and Virginia all established COVID-19 emergency rules last year. Oregon and Virginia adopted permanent standards earlier this year, and Michigan extended its ETS in April, then revised its rules in May to incorporate new CDC guidance. Michigan also withdrew its draft permanent standard.

Oregon OSHA will begin discussions the week of June 14 to repeal the face covering and physical distancing requirements of its COVID-19 rule once the state reaches 70 percent of its adults vaccinated against the virus with at least one dose.

The CDC considers people fully vaccinated 2 weeks after a second dose of the 2-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines or 2 weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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