COVID Reopening: Cal/OSHA Withdraws Controversial Work Mask Rules

Less than a week before the state fully reopens, the Cal/OSHA board unanimously withdrew masking rules which would’ve required every employee in a room to be full vaccinated before going maskless. The meeting was heated with hours of public comment. Andrea Nakano reports. (6/9/21)

Video Transcript

KEN BASTIDA: Now at 11, streaming on CBSN Bay Area. Good evening, I'm Ken Bastida.

ELIZABETH COOK: And I'm Elizabeth Cook. First, that breaking news. Looking live at the state capital. Tonight, new rules about wearing masks in the workplace have just been issued. The decision within the past two hours comes less than a week ahead of the state's reopening.

KEN BASTIDA: KPIX 5's Andrea Nakano live in Novato with a decision that came after a lot of flip flopping. Andrea.

ANDREA NAKANO: Ken and Liza, it was a lengthy and contentious meeting tonight as the public chimed in on masking guidelines. As it stands now, businesses like Safeway will lift all masking mandates for customers next Tuesday. And with Cal/OSHA's vote tonight, employees could be next.

- I. Chairman Thomas.

- I. And the motion passes.

ANDREA NAKANO: With a unanimous vote, the Cal/OSHA board withdrew masking rules, which would have required every employee in a room to be fully vaccinated before going maskless. The meeting was heated with hours of public comment.

- This process does not need to be chaotic. It should be measured, transparent, and collaborative. We are disappointed and frustrated with the confusion, the process, the substance, and the lack of leadership.

- I'm really concerned that we have a regulation that will pit workers against each other, cause workers to resent their employers intruding in some of their private decisions.

ANDREA NAKANO: Many business owners called in saying the masks are not good for business. And they want Cal/OSHA to align with the California Department of Health guidelines where masks will no longer be required starting June 15. The exceptions are when taking public transportation, whether it's a bus or airplane. All K through 12 schools, health care settings, and homeless and emergency centers. UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford says from a medical perspective, Cal/OSHA took the correct action tonight.

DR. GEORGE RUTHERFORD: They've been more conservative. And basically said unless everybody's vaccinated at a work site, everybody has to wear masks. And I think that's probably overly restrictive.

KEN BASTIDA: Then you got Cal/OSHA, you got the CDC, you got the state, and you have the governor weighing in on this. Andrea, what's the next step?

ANDREA NAKANO: Well, what this vote does tonight is it actually just sets the stage for Cal/OSHA to make some more changes, which it says it plans to do at its next meeting, which is coming up on Thursday of next week.

KEN BASTIDA: All right. We'll see how it works out. Andrea Nakano reporting live. Thank you.