New Mask Mandate – Workplace Guidance Clarification

Since the recent guidance order issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) requiring all persons in public indoor settings to wear face coverings regardless of their vaccination status, there has been some confusion among employers on how the mandate applies to their businesses. On December 15, 2021 an update came out from the CDPH regarding face coverings. Among other things, this recent update clarifies how the new mask mandate applies to workplaces.

CDPH states that the mask mandate “applies to all workplaces, regardless of whether they serve the public, or are open to the public. Masks may be removed, per exemptions noted below, if the workplace consists of a single employee, or may be removed while an employee is alone in a closed office or room.”

Among the noted exceptions, the following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

  • Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

Additionally, exceptions to the universal masking requirements apply in the following circumstances in specified settings:

  • Masks may be removed while actively eating or drinking.
  • Persons who are working alone in a closed office or room.
  • Persons who are actively performing at indoor live or recorded settings or events such as music, acting, or singing. If performers do not wear a mask indoors while performing, CDPH strongly recommends that individuals undergo screening testing at least once weekly. An FDA-approved antigen test, PCR test, or pooled PCR test is acceptable for evaluation of an individual’s COVID-19 status.
  • Persons who are obtaining a medical or cosmetic service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the services.
  • Workers who wear respiratory protection, per CalOSHA requirements.
  • Persons who are specifically exempted from wearing masks by other CDPH guidance.