You are not reading this wrong. We know we JUST sent you an alert a week ago advising that Los Angeles County issued a revised Health Officer Order (HOO) still requiring masking wearing in most indoor settings, especially workplaces. And as of last week, the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) remained in place, requiring that unvaccinated employees still wear masks in all workplaces.
However, today is a new dawn, a new day, and as we have all learned, pandemic protocols are constantly shifting. With the number of COVID-19 cases dropping rapidly, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently updated masking guidance to remove the requirement for unvaccinated individuals to wear masks in indoor settings. Subsequently, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order to update the Cal/OSHA ETS to bring it into alignment with the most recent CDPH mask guidance. Therefore, effective immediately, unvaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks in most workplaces.
A copy of the link to the revised Cal/OSHA FAQs is here.
Which brings us to Los Angeles County. As you all know, since you received our alert this time last week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH) had issued a more restrictive HOO last Friday indicating the limited situations in which employees and third parties could be indoors without a face covering. Notwithstanding the recent publication of that HOO, Dr. Barbara Ferrer at LADPH has just announced this afternoon, March 3, that effective tomorrow, March 4, 2022, masks will NO LONGER BE REQUIRED FOR MOST INDOOR SETTINGS, including workplaces – regardless of vaccination status. This will exclude the same high risk settings covered under the previous HOO, including public transportation and transportation hubs, correctional facilities, healthcare settings, nursing homes, homeless and emergency shelters. Dr. Ferrer was also very quick to remind the public that we are all in a transition phase and that while masks are no longer required indoors, they are still highly recommended.
The cities of Long Beach and Pasadena have independent health departments, but they followed suit and dropped their mandates earlier this week. Palm Springs, which had its own mask mandate, lifted its order Monday, and Santa Clara County lifted its mask order Wednesday. Mendocino County, the last remaining County with a mask mandate, is due to reassess in the coming weeks.
Dr. Ferrer was asked “does this mean the pandemic is over? Have we now reached an ‘endemic’ phase?” She dodged the question. However, she dispensed valuable advice about continuing to promote good general hygiene with our employees, noting that while we all were wearing masks, washing our hands, and advocating social distancing, we also experienced fewer cases of colds and other viruses in society and the workplace.
“These events mark an important and hopeful change as the residents and government of our state transition to a semblance of pre-COVID-19 California,” remarked California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye after Governor Newsom revoked a number of pandemic-related orders.
Let’s see how long all this lasts. Remember, we have been here before. The last time the mask mandate was repealed in Los Angeles County, that repeal lasted a month before the Delta variant hit and the mandate was reinstituted. We recommend guarded optimism, and of course, you should continue to make masks available to any employees who may still wish to wear them. You may well have employees who feel more comfortable in masks, and they should never be shamed for or prohibited from doing so. And if you have any questions, as always, you can reach out to any of us here in the Employment Law Group at Raines Feldman.