The federal vaccine mandate is still on hold, and it will likely be another few months before we get greater clarity on the federal response.
On orders from California Department of Public Health, from December 15 through January 15, 2022, all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear masks indoors.
Cal OSHA will meet on December 16 to vote on re-adoption of the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS).
Among the key changes to implementation this time around is the reduction in the distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. In situations where there is close contact between vaccinated and unvaccinated employee groups, employers must provide testing for both. There are also provisions regarding the re-implementation of social distancing for unvaccinated workers.
Businesses are concerned with the availability and cost of testing, difficulties posed from social distancing, and ambiguity for how to appropriately address employees who do not want to follow the protocols.
If the new language is adopted, which is likely, the new ETS language will take effect January 14th and expire in April, at which point the issue will be brought up again to determine the longevity of such measures.
There are obviously many more key factors that are being discussed and voted upon, but I will wait until the outcome of Thursday’s vote.
In the longer term, there are also discussions over a statewide vaccine mandate, which Governor Newsom does not want to accomplish through executive order. The battle in this arena comes down to what stipulations should be included and which should be excluded, what the definition of “fully vaccinated” is, who is liable for failure to appropriately implement, and more. Those discussions will likely take longer, so the immediate focus is on the outcomes of the December 16 meeting.