On May 3, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) updated its face coverings guidance and clarified quarantine provisions of fully vaccinated people applicable to non-healthcare workplaces to align with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated interim recommendations published on April 27, 2021.

The updated CDPH guidance supersedes face covering guidance released on November 16, 2020, and mandates face coverings in indoor settings outside of one’s home, regardless of vaccination status, with a few exceptions:

1. For fully vaccinated people, face coverings are not required outdoors except when attending crowded outdoor events. For unvaccinated people, face coverings are required outdoors any time physical distancing cannot be maintained, including attending crowded events.

2. The following specific settings are exempted from face covering requirements:

  • Persons in a car alone or solely with members of their own household,
  • Persons who are working alone in a closed office or room,
  • 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 service,
  • Workers who wear respiratory protection, or
  • Persons who are specifically exempted from wearing face coverings by other CDPH guidance.

3. The following individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings at all times:

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

*Persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition who are employed in a job involving regular contact with others must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.

On May 5, 2021, the California Department of Industrial Relations (Cal/OSHA) also revised its COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), and the CDPH released responses to frequently asked questions relating to public schools:

Is there new guidance this week about vaccinated teachers and whether they need to quarantine if they are asymptomatic?

Yes, CDPH updated its Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People to align with CDC guidance on the same topic. The updated CDPH guidance clarifies that exposed, asymptomatic, fully vaccinated workers in non-healthcare settings (including teachers and other school staff) do NOT need to be excluded from the workplace. Because of Executive Order N-84-20, CDPH guidance supersedes the Cal/OSHA standards on this specific point. For your reference and to share with others in the school community, this information is posted on the Cal/OSHA ETS website.

When does the new guidance about vaccinated teachers and quarantine come into effect?

The specific piece about vaccinated school staff and teacher quarantine is effective immediately.

How does this relate to the anticipated new emergency temporary standards from Cal/OSHA?

The anticipated new ETS, covering the full range of guidance, are scheduled to be posted for public comment on Friday (May 7th) and then reviewed by the standards board on May 20, then adopted a few days later, and go into effect with adoption. Here is the link to the website where they are anticipated to be posted.