On December 15, 2021, California reinstated a mandatory indoor masking requirement to correspond with the rise in Omicron cases. However, as COVID-19 cases in California have steadily decreased, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued updated guidance to take effect February 16, 2022, which loosens the mask requirements for vaccinated individuals. According to the February 7, 2022 guidance, masks remain required for “unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses.” In addition, fully vaccinated individuals “are recommended to continue indoor masking when the risk may be high.” The guidance also notes that masks remain required regardless of vaccination status in the following settings: on public transit; indoors in K-12 schools and childcare; emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers; healthcare settings; state and local correctional facilities and detention centers; homeless shelters; and long-term care settings and adult and senior care facilities. To assist with implementation, the CDPH provides guidance for how businesses, venue operators or hosts can comply, and it also lists exemptions to the mask requirements.

The CDPH further indicates that in workplaces, employers remain subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) or the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard, and employers should continue monitoring those regulations for applicable requirements.

Finally, while the foregoing guidance is for California statewide, nothing precludes local jurisdictions from retaining their mask mandates. In fact, we anticipate some local governments may continue imposing mask requirements. Further, employers remain free to impose mask requirements even in the absence of local regulation. Given the fluid nature of the mask and vaccination requirements, employers are encouraged to monitor state and local regulations, and also to consult with counsel regarding any questions.