Governor should suspend ridiculous Cal/OSHA mask-wearing rules


Follow the science. That has been the watchword throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Those that follow the facts – be they politicians, legislatures, regulators, businesses or individuals – are much better off today than those that don’t.

As an association that supports California’s 6,000 hotels and their 235,000 employees, the California Hotel and Lodging Association has been acutely engaged throughout the pandemic with federal, state and local health leaders to provide our guests and workers with the best safety protocols that scientific data provides.

On Thursday, the Standards Board of the California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, which governs workplace safety rules, made a mockery of its regulatory role by not following science, and perhaps most importantly, not using common sense.

Fully out of sync with mask-wearing guidance from most federal and state agencies that are following COVID-19 data, the Standards Board passed rules that mandate if anyone in a workplace is unvaccinated, all colleagues must wear masks when in the same room, but allows workers to not wear masks when everyone in a room is vaccinated.

Only hours earlier, the board rejected the same rules. And to add to the confusion, the board immediately appointed a three-person subcommittee to revise the approved rules as soon as possible. By the way, the new regulation takes effect June 15, the very same day Gov. Gavin Newsom has pronounced that California is supposed to open up and go in the opposite direction.

This cumbersome regulatory process and failure to follow the science has consequences, and they will be immediate. Cal/OSHA puts the burden of vaccine and mask enforcement on all businesses with little guidance as to how that can be done while adhering to privacy policies. Employers are required now to wade into the minefield of determining who is vaccinated and who is not. The rules contradict what Newsom, the California Department of Public Health and, importantly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are allowing.

The result is hotels and other workplaces are at risk as they enforce a policy that doesn’t match those of other highly respected regulators. This jumble of conflicting health care information is likely to pit employees on colleagues — many of whom are exhausted from following mask-wearing guidance for more than a year – to become “vaccine bullies.”

Under Cal/OSHA’s ruling, the following scenario is very real: A restaurant server, in his role as an employee, is mandated to wear a mask while working. After his shift, the server could become a guest at the very same restaurant he works and not wear a mask while dining. Cal/OSHA’s logic suggests the COVID-19 virus can distinguish between workers and guests – truly absurd.

Nobody benefits from this inconsistent uncertainty.

The California Hotel and Lodging Association calls on the governor to use the power of his office to put an end to this ridiculous rule-making and issue an executive order that:

• Suspends the regulation

• Makes it crystal clear that all employees have the option of getting vaccinated and by so doing assuring themselves that they have the best protection available from COVID-19 — far better than relying on masks, respirators, constant disinfecting, etc.

An executive order is the only rational way to go now, and by issuing it,  Newsom would bring desperately needed clarity to what an employee’s responsibility is and what the employer’s responsibility is, to the substantial benefit of both.

Our state, our employees, the general public, and our hotels need common sense to prevail, and genuine leadership to guide us toward the path of full recovery.

Lynn S. Mohrfeld is President and CEO of the California Hotel and Lodging Association.


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