California Department of Public Health Issues Updated Guidance Regarding Face Coverings
On February 7, 2022, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued updated Guidance for the Use of Face Masks, which goes into effect on February 16, 2022 and eliminates the State’s current universal indoor masking requirement, except in specified settings (such as, for example, K-12 schools while indoors and healthcare settings), and subject to more restrictive local health orders, which may still require universal indoor masking regardless of vaccination status.
As background, on December 13, 2021, CDPH issued guidance requiring universal masking indoors statewide, regardless of vaccination status, from December 15, 2021 through January 15, 2022. Due to the surge of the omicron COVID-19 variant, this requirement was then extended by CDPH through February 15, 2022. In anticipation of the upcoming expiration of the existing masking guidance, on February 7th, CDPH issued its updated guidance to take effect on February 16.
Under the new guidance, only unvaccinated persons will be required to mask in all indoor public settings and businesses. Nevertheless, CDPH recommends that fully vaccinated individuals continue indoor masking when the risk may be high. Per the updated guidance, universal indoor masking will continue – regardless of vaccination status – only in the following specified settings:
- On public transit and in transportation hubs (e.g., airports)
- Indoors in K-12 schools and childcare
- Emergency shelters and cooling/heating shelters
- Healthcare settings
- Correctional facilities and detention centers
- Homeless shelters
- Long term care settings and adult and senior care facilities
In addition, CDPH recommends that individuals wear well-fitting surgical or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, or KF94s).
With CDPH relaxing its statewide masking guidance as of February 16th, California employers should bear in mind that they must follow the strictest applicable face covering requirements. So, while CDPH may allow fully vaccinated individuals to go without a mask indoors (subject to the above exceptions), employers should carefully assess whether the Cal/OSHA ETS or local public health department may impose stricter masking requirements applicable to their employees.
AALRR will continue to monitor the status of COVID-19 restrictions statewide. Employers should take care to comply with all local and State restrictions and guidelines. If you have any questions regarding the new CDPH Guidance or what your organization needs to do to stay in compliance, including assistance with workplace masking policies, please contact the authors or your usual counsel at AALRR who can provide advice and counsel specific to your particular circumstances.