Universal Indoor Mask Mandates are Lifting in California, but Beware the Caveats

Universal Indoor Mask Mandates are Lifting in California, but Beware the Caveats

By:  Kate Friend, Of Counsel, Demler, Armstrong & Rowland

Last week the California Department of Public Health (the “CDPH”) announced that effective February 16 it will lift the universal indoor mask mandate. Mask mandates are also expiring on the same day in a number of jurisdictions that enacted local indoor mask mandates, including: in the Bay Area and the northern part of California: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and the City of Berkeley, and in Southern California in: San Diego, Orange, and Imperial Counties. Some local jurisdictions including Los Angeles, Mendocino Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Ventura Counties have not yet announced lifting of local mask mandates.

However, the expiration of “universal mask mandates” is not the same thing as the expiration of all mask mandates.  There are some big caveats.  All employers should bear in mind that masks are still required for:

  • Unvaccinated individuals over the age of 2 (must continue to mask at all indoor public spaces);
  • Unvaccinated employees (must wear face masks while at work or in work vehicles)
  • Employees who come into close contact with a person with COVID-19, but are eligible to return to work under Cal-OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards (must mask at work until 14 days have passed since the date of close contact regardless of vaccination status)

Additionally, regardless of vaccination status masks are still required for all persons over the age of 2:

  • On public transit
  • In transportation hubs,
  • In taxis and rideshare vehicles
  • Indoors in K-12 schools
  • Indoor childcare settings;
  • Emergency shelters, cooling and heating centers;
  • Correctional facilities and detention centers;
  • Healthcare settings;
  • Homeless shelters;
  • Long term care settings;
  • Adult and senior care facilities

Because the rules may change quickly, and vary by local jurisdiction, employers and persons operating venues open to the public should review guidance from their local health departments, as well as guidance from Cal-OSHA and the CDPH.

The Emergency Temporary Standards can be found here:  https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/ETS.html

The CDPH Guidance can be found here:  https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx

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