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There’s mounting pressure on the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health Standards (CalOSHA) board to revise its workplace guidelines to allow fully vaccinated employees to drop their masks starting next Tuesday. 

Businesses in Orange County and throughout the Golden State are perplexed by workplace guidelines CalOSHA adopted last Thursday, which say fully vaccinated workers can drop their masks indoors, unless their coworkers are unvaccinated.

Read: Fully Vaccinated OC Residents Will Soon No Longer Need Masks at Work

The workplace rules clash with overall guidance from the state Department of Public Health, which will allow fully vaccinated people to largely ditch masks — regardless of who they’re around — beginning next Tuesday, when the statewide reopening hits and most pandemic mandates end.

State Health Officer Dr. Tomàs Aragòn is calling on CalOSHA board members to revise workplace guidelines to match the statewide reopening plans. CalOSHA is tasked with creating statewide policies for workplace safety.

“The Department remains supportive of your and Cal/OSHA’s efforts to revise the [guidelines], which remains important to ensuring that California continues its progress in moving beyond the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a Monday letter Aragòn sent board members.

The seven-member board, who are appointed by the Governor, will debate revising workplace guidelines today at 5 p.m.

Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, said employers throughout OC are scratching their heads over what CalOSHA’s guidelines exactly mean and how to follow them. 

“It’s very confusing for businesses out there,” Dunn said in a Thursday phone interview. “Businesses are all over the map on this and every one of them wants their customers and employees safe, but the rules are very confusing.” 

The OC Business Council joined with a host of other business groups, like the California Retailers Association, to call on CalOSHA to revise the guidelines.

“The [guidelines] undermines the science confirming that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. This could have a negative impact on the public’s confidence in the vaccine and desire to be fully vaccinated. Now, more than ever, the state must stand with the science and show residents—customers and employees alike—that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and necessary,” reads a Monday letter sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, said matching guidelines will help the state’s economic recovery by clearing up confusion.

“Over the last 15 months, every Californian has dealt with confusion over COVID-19 guidelines,” Michelin said in a Tuesday news release. “The only way California can make a strong comeback is to have a united approach to reopening the state on June 15 — not just for employers, but also for workers, consumers and all residents.”

Newsom is also pressuring CalOSHA board members to reconsider the guidelines. 

“The Governor’s Office appreciates the Board’s actions to maintain worker safety and is hopeful the Board will further revise its guidance to reflect the latest science while continuing to protect workers and balancing realistic and enforceable requirements for employers,” reads a Tuesday statement from Newsom’s press office.

Meanwhile, Dunn said there’s a wide range of different approaches Orange County businesses have taken to ensure their workers are vaccinated.

“Some businesses require you to come into the office if you prove you’ve been vaccinated, otherwise please stay hybrid or stay at home. Some businesses are doing self attestation without formally showing cards.”  

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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