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Following the California Department of Public Health’s release of new indoor masking guidance, Governor Gavin Newsom just signed an executive order that updates the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in keeping with the current guidance.

In California, starting March 1, masks will no longer be required for unvaccinated workers indoors, consistent with the updated CDPH guidance, but will be strongly recommended for all individuals in most indoor settings. Employers must still provide a face covering upon request of an employee.

According to the Order “California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 3205(c) (6) (A) is suspended.” This section of the regulation stated “(6) Face coverings. (A) For all employees who are not fully vaccinated, employers shall provide face coverings and ensure they are worn when indoors or in vehicles.”

The order also extends the current Emergency Temporary Standard through May 5, 2022 to ensure the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board has time to review the new guidance in anticipation of the next readoption of the ETS.

Gavin Newsom’s office also announced Monday that California will end its statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools at the stroke of midnight March 12, while passing to local districts and health officials the contentious question of whether to maintain tougher face-covering rules than the state.

Los Angeles County health officials on Monday said they will align with the state’s move to end indoor school masking requirements after March 11, giving officials in the county’s 80 schools districts – including L.A. Unified – the ability to make their own decision about whether to continue with local mandates. The decision sets up a likely conflict in L.A. Unified between those who favor indoor masking rules and those who don’t. The teachers union on Monday said it would be premature to end the mandate.

Monday’s announcement comes amid a rapidly shifting pandemic and political landscape, as case rates have fallen rapidly from a January peak driven by the highly contagious omicron variant and polling has suggested the public is tiring of ongoing pandemic restrictions.

And the White House told federal agencies late on Monday they can drop COVID-19 requirements that employees and visitors wear masks in federal buildings in much of the country, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The White House-led Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said in new guidance that the mask requirement could be ended by federal facilities in counties with low or medium COVID-19 community levels, regardless of vaccination status. About 70% of U.S. counties covering 72% of the U.S. population are listed as having low or medium levels.

The White House directed agencies to revise federal employee masking and testing rules no later than March 4, according to the previously unreported document. The new guidance covers about 3.5 million employees at federal agencies.

In counties with low community levels, federal agencies also do not need to regularly screen unvaccinated employees for COVID-19, the guidance says.