On December 13, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued an order requiring people to wear masks in all indoor public settings from December 15, 2021, through January 15, 2022, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated against COVID-19 (coronavirus). The new order temporarily overrides the exception in Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standards (ETS), which allows fully vaccinated workers to dispense with masks. (Workers in the health care industry who are covered by Cal/OSHA’s aerosol transmissible diseases standard continue to be subject to the aerosol standard.) Cloth face coverings are acceptable under the order, although CDPH recommends surgical masks or higher-level respirators.
CDPH’s Face Coverings Q&A (updated December 15, 2021) confirms that the order applies to all workplaces, regardless of whether they are open to the public. However, employees may remove their masks in limited situations such as when actively eating or drinking; when they’re the only person in the workplace; or when alone in a closed office or room. Additional exceptions apply, such as when an employee has a medical condition that prevents wearing a mask or a hearing impairment that makes it essential to see a person’s mouth for communication. CDPH’s order doesn’t apply in local jurisdictions that already had an indoor mask mandate in place regardless of vaccination status before December 13, 2021.
Tips: While the CDPH order is in effect, ensure that all employees wear a mask indoors at work unless an exception applies. To the extent that you have customers or members of the public entering your worksite, CDPH’s Q&A says that as long as you prominently post signs explaining the mask requirements for everyone, you don’t need to take further enforcement action. Contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney for help evaluating any requests for exemptions from the mask mandate.