Do You Know WHO is Changing Their Mask Guidance?
The World Health Organization (“WHO”) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (“DPH”) have issued new mask guidance in light of the spreading COVID-19 Delta variant, which is more contagious than other strains of the virus.
On June 25, 2021, Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, gave a news briefing to caution that “Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission… People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene... the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing.”
On June 28, 2021, the DPH issued a News Release stating that it “strongly recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure.” The DPH further advised: “Public Health strongly recommends people wear masks indoors in settings such as grocery or retail stores; theaters and family entertainment centers, and workplaces when you don't know everyone's vaccination status. Until we better understand how and to who the Delta variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection with minimum interruption to routine as all businesses operate without other restrictions, like physical distancing and capacity limits."
To be clear, the California and Los Angeles public and workplace health agencies and organizations, including but not limited to Cal/OSHA, are not requiring most businesses to mandate use of masks by vaccinated customers or employees. We note that Cal/OSHA still has not issued an amended written workplace safety model to reflect its repeal of mask requirements for vaccinated individuals in its revised Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”). (You can find our prior Client Alert regarding the revised ETS here.) We have not yet heard whether Cal/OSHA is reconsidering its position regarding mask requirements for vaccinated workers.
For employers, the most cautious course is to continue to recommend the use of masks by all employees, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public workspaces and in vehicles shared by multiple employees. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, guidance is evolving constantly as new information comes to light. We will continue to monitor and advise on the situation.