UPDATED with the latest: California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed an executive order expediting the rules around masking, social distancing and capacity limits for businesses in the state. The rules were confirmed on Thursday by a Cal/OSHA safety board which oversees such decisions for businesses.
As expected, the Cal/OSHA rules align with guidance issued late last week by the CA Department of Public Health, but Newsom’s signature on Thursday speeds up the usual week-plus implementation process for such orders. It also puts an end to weeks of confusion over what the reopening rules would be. Newsom, state public health officials and the Cal/OSHA board itself had all issued conflicting signals on what they might be. The specifics for businesses are outlined below.
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Newsom’s executive order comes two days after the reopening date he himself set for the state.
PREVIOUSLY on June 15: “We are here,” announced Gov. Gavin Newsom from a stage at Universal Studios Hollywood, “[on] June 15, to turn the page, to move beyond capacity limits, to move beyond color coding, to move beyond social distancing and physical distancing and yes…move beyond wearing these masks.” He then quickly added, “Full disclosure: There are a few caveats and details in that respect, but we’ll get to those nuances in a moment.”
The vast majority of California’s Covid-19 restrictions were lifted on Tuesday, but mask-wearing will continue to be a reality for non-vaccinated residents and at businesses that opt to require them or for people who simply feel safer wearing them.
Effective at 12:01 a.m., the state officially scrapped its Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the four-tier, color-coded roadmap of restrictions on economic activity and public gatherings based on individual counties’ Covid case rates and testing-positivity rates. Los Angeles County issued a new Health Officer order that mostly aligns with the state reopening.
With the Blueprint gone, the state officially lifted all physical-distancing requirements and capacity restrictions at businesses and public gatherings.
Businesses that can resume near-normal, full-capacity indoor operations include:
The caveats in the new rules, however, are fairly extensive for the millions of unvaccinated Californians. While one politician at Newsom’s event touted that 70% of the state’s population has been vaccinated, that number includes partial vaccinations. Only 56% of state residents over age 12 have been fully vaccinated. That number would be even lower if kids under 12 were included in the estimation, which they probably should be.
The new Los Angeles Health Officer order states that “masks are required for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people in indoor public settings and businesses.” Further, if a person’s vaccination status is unclear, “masks are required.”
Establishments can also be more strict and require masks for everyone, as the California African American Museum, California Science Center and Natural History Museum are. In a joint statement on Tuesday, the museums said they will still require masks, regardless of visitors’ vaccination status.
There are special rules for unvaccinated people at mass gatherings. For so-called indoor mega events with an attendance over 5,000 — such as concerts, NBA games or conventions — operators much verify that attendees are fully vaccinated or have proof of a recent negative Covid test. Even with a negative test, those not fully vaccinated will still have to wear masks while the fully inoculated will not.
Organizers of outdoor public events with an attendance over 10,000 — such as Comic-Con or a Dodger game — must also verify vaccination status or require a negative Covid test. Again, those not fully vaccinated will still have to wear masks while the fully inoculated will not.
One such event takes place today as the Los Angeles Dodgers will celebrate the state’s reopening at the team’s 7:10 p.m. game against the Philadelphia Phillies, opening the stadium for full-capacity seating for the first time since the pandemic began.
Even fully-vaccinated people are still required to wear masks in certain settings.
-On public transit, including airplanes, ships, trains, buses, taxis and ride-hailing vehicles, and in transportation hubs such as airports, but terminals, train stations, seaports, marinas and subway stations
-Indoors at K-12 schools, child-care facilities and other youth settings
-Health-care settings, including long-term care facilities
-At state and local correctional facilities and detention centers
-At homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers
Business and event-venue operators can choose how to enforce those rules. According to the state, they have three options:
-Businesses and venues can publicly post rules regarding mask- wearing and allow customers and visitors to “self-attest” that they are vaccinated, meaning if someone enters the business without a mask they are attesting to being vaccinated
-They can “implement a vaccine-verification system to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask”
-They can simply require all patrons to wear a mask.
Newsom on Tuesday recognized the issues with “self-attestation,” which essentially is an honor system, but said “we hope [people] will be honest about that.” He has repeatedly said the state would not be creating an electronic “vaccine passport” system. Some public entities are going even farther than requiring masks of self-attestation.
The University of California system is considering requiring all students in the fall to be vaccinated if there is a vaccine fully approved by the FDA — current vaccines have been approved under emergency use authorizations.
And for at least a couple more days, mask-wearing will remain mandatory for workers in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. On Thursday, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is set to consider revised workplace mask-wearing guidance, which would generally align with the state’s rules for the public at large. Newsom has said he expects that the board to approve the guidelines.
Such a ruling would require businesses to verify workers’ vaccination status and make masks available to unvaccinated workers, who must wear face coverings in the workplace. Vaccinated workers would not be required to wear masks in the workplace under the proposed rules.
If the board approves the rules Thursday, Newsom said he is prepared to issue an executive order implementing them immediately. Normally, the board’s decision would have to be reviewed by state attorneys and wouldn’t take effect until the end of the month. Newsom’s executive order would close that “gap” created by the governor’s own June 15 reopening deadline and immediately implement the rules later this week.
City News Service contributed to this report.