In another twist in the now surreal Cal/OSHA-COVID regulatory drama, the Standards Board has called a special meeting for June 9th to discuss potential new rules. The Board also released an updated agenda for its regular monthly meeting on June 17th, which include the possible readoption of the COVID-19 standard. Considering that the Board readopted a new version of the regulation last week, this puts both the recent and new changes on the table.
Those close to the action say that Governor Gavin Newsom is getting a lot of pressure to “clean up the mess” and that he wants to avoid having to issue an Executive Order considering the recall is just months away. So, he is leaning pretty hard on the Standards Board to work it out. Candidates running against Newsom are already making masks and a real opening of the state issues in the recall. But his far-left constituency and labor are making it difficult for him to navigate. What is clear is that business, employees, and the economy is faring far better in states without this degree of regulation.
The question business interests are asking is will his leaning on the Board turn out to be like leaning on a weathervane.
In announcing the special meeting, the Board states that its purpose “is for the Board to consider new information from the California Department of Public Health on pending guidance regarding COVID-19 Prevention and take action if appropriate.”
That reference could be to new CDPH guidance on COVID testing, which appears to recommend weekly or twice-weekly testing of non-vaccinated individuals. But, will the Board apply it only to workplaces where employees are in close and frequent contact with the public and high-density workplaces where there is a higher risk of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or to all workplaces?
One knowledgeable observer tells Cal-OSHA Reporter that the guidance could portend “massive” increases in employers’ testing (and time off) obligations in many workplaces.
The Board approved controversial revisions to the COVID regulation last week after an almost 10-hour meeting that produced two votes on the revisions, neither of which satisfied anybody. The rulemaking package has been sent to the Office of Administrative Law, which has ten days to review and approve or reject it. If the Board wants to include new testing requirements in the standard, it could pull back the package from OAL, insert the new language, and have the board vote on it at the June 17th meeting, then re-send it to OAL.
It is unclear whether the June 9th meeting will entertain other changes, such as a broad exemption from mask-wearing for vaccinated employees in indoor settings. The failure to revise the original emergency regulation to make such a distinction was a major theme of angry stakeholder comments at the marathon meeting.
Many commenters also suggested the Board rescind the emergency rule altogether.
Before the June 3rd meeting, employer advocates urged the Board to postpone a vote in favor of more changes that align with Centers for Disease Control and state guidelines on reopening and voting on them at the June 17th meeting. But Executive Officer Christina Shupe said that there wasn’t enough time for more significant revisions, and making such changes would require months, not weeks, to accomplish.
Will the latest development revise that stance?
And more importantly, will California and its citizens be able to enjoy freedom.
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