What to Know About Workplace Mask Rules

Tuesday: The state updated its standards for wearing masks at work. Here’s what to know about the changes.


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Brandon Montalvo served members at the Donum Estate winery in Sonoma last month.Credit…Caroline Gutman for The New York Times

Good morning.

One week from today, after some 15 months of living under an ever-evolving set of coronavirus restrictions, California is set to reopen. Full stop.

Well, almost full stop.

Capacity restrictions on businesses are going away. There will be no more color-coded tiers. And although Gov. Gavin Newsom initially had indicated that the state’s mask mandate would remain in place even after other restrictions had been lifted, officials have since said that Californians will no longer have to wear masks, unless a private business decides to continue requiring them.

There are, however, some complexities that you or your employer might be sorting out right now.

Last week, after what Politico reported was a long and at times confusing meeting, a state board regulating workplace safety approved new standards for mask-wearing at work. And although the new rules are slightly looser than previously, they still require some masking.

Here’s what you need to know.

If I’m going into work, will I have to wear a mask? Even if I’m vaccinated?

Maybe. But depending on where you work, it may not be likely.

If you work indoors and everyone in the room is fully vaccinated, then none of you need to wear a mask.

But if even one of your co-workers is unvaccinated, you’ll all have to wear masks.

If you work outdoors and you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t have to cover your face. And if your co-workers are not vaccinated, they must wear a face covering when they’re less than six feet away from another person.

Speaking of six feet, have the physical distancing standards changed?

Yes. Starting July 31, employers can get rid of distancing requirements or partitions or barriers for people working inside and at “mega outdoor events” with 10,000 or more spectators. Until then, if you work inside or at a mega event, distancing is still required, whether or not you’re vaccinated.

Employers can eliminate distancing requirements early, starting June 15, if they provide unvaccinated workers with N95 masks or other respirators.

Also, if you’re fully vaccinated and you have a close contact with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus, you don’t have to stay home unless you have symptoms.


Children chased bubbles near the Santa Monica Pier on Memorial Day.Credit…David Mcnew/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

How is California doing with vaccinations?

More than half of Californians, about 55.4 percent, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 45 percent are fully vaccinated, according to The Los Angeles Times’s detailed state tracker. But fewer low-income Californians have been vaccinated than those who live in communities designated as wealthier and healthier — meaning that many in-person essential workers could still be at risk.

When do the rules go into effect?

June 15, although the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board could still revise them in coming weeks. Newsom could overrule them — say, to loosen the rules to more closely align with federal guidance — but he hasn’t said that he plans to do so, according to The Sacramento Bee.

For more:

Read about the state regulators’ discussion of the worker mask mandate in The Sacramento Bee.

Read a more detailed explanation of the rules from The San Francisco Chronicle.

Track California’s case numbers and vaccination campaign.

See the full rules here.

Here’s what else to know today


Researchers estimated that there hasn’t been this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for at least 3 million years.Credit…Sascha Steinbach/EPA, via Shutterstock

Compiled by Jonathan Wolfe

The amount of carbon dioxide piling up in Earth’s atmosphere set a record last month, once again reaching the highest levels in human history despite a temporary dip caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. has fallen way behind Europe in building offshore wind farms partly because of an old shipping law and opposition from homeowners and fishing groups.

A growing body of research shows that FEMA, the government agency responsible for helping Americans recover from disasters, often helps white disaster victims more than people of color, even when the amount of damage is the same.

The Press Democrat looked at what farmers are losing as the drought worsens in the state.

The Line 3 pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada across Minnesota, is testing President Biden’s climate pledges and campaign promises for tribal sovereignty on Native American lands.

Kamala Harris, in Guatemala during her first foreign trip as vice president, delivered a blunt message to migrants seeking sanctuary and economic relief by crossing the border to the United States: “Do not come.”

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that immigrants allowed to stay in the U.S. temporarily for humanitarian reasons may not apply for green cards if they had entered the country unlawfully.

Companies that have lobbied Gavin Newsom, like PG&E and Kaiser Permanente, have also given tens of thousands of dollars to his wife’s nonprofit, The Sacramento Bee reports.

California has one of the lowest levels of virus transmission in the country, The Los Angeles Times reports.

As other states make abortion more restrictive, California is moving to make it free for more people, Kaiser Health News reports.


A memorial for Aiden Leos, a 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed during a road-rage attack.Credit…Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register, via Associated Press

Two people have been arrested in a road-rage shooting on a freeway in Orange County, in which a 6-year-old boy was killed last month while his mother was driving him to school.

At some top companies, Asian Americans are underrepresented in leadership. The root of this inequality could stem from the all-too-common experience of being “interchangeable” — or confused for someone else.

CalMatters profiled the founders of Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based coalition that is tracking hate incidents nationally involving Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The mayor of Fresno said that honorary Pride flags would be raised at City Hall, reversing an earlier decision, The Fresno Bee reports.

A team of engineers is trying to stop the Golden Gate Bridge from “humming,” The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

A writer for SFGate found the dock in Sausalito where Otis Redding conceived the song “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay.”

Real estate: The Water Tower House at Seal Beach is on the market for $4.95 million, The Long Beach Post reports.

And finally …


Mayor London Breed, at center right, raising the Pride flag at City Hall in San Francisco on Monday with other state and city officials. Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

San Francisco’s city hall reopened to the public on Monday with a Pride kickoff celebration and four weddings under the building’s soaring rotunda. The city won’t host its usual large parade this year. But there will be smaller in-person events.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

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