New state workplace mask guidelines help employers, workers adapt to CDC guidelines

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TUMWATER, Wash. — Washington State updated COVID-19 workplace guidelines to help employers and workers adapt to CDC guidelines, where fully vaccinated people can take off their masks.

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) said on Friday the updated guidelines detail steps employers must take to continue keeping workers safe, while allowing fully vaccinated workers in many areas to not wear masks.

Unless their employer still requires it, fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask or socially distance. However, before ending mask and social distance requirements, employers must confirm workers are fully vaccinated – by having them either sign a document attesting to their status or provide proof of vaccination.

The L&I also said employers must demonstrate they have verified vaccination for workers who are not masked or physically distanced. Ways of verification include: creating a log of workers who verified they got the vaccine and the day they got it, checking vaccination status each day as workers enter a jobsite, or marking a worker’s badge or credential to show they are vaccinated.

Other ways employers can verify a worker’s vaccination status include a CDC vaccination card, a photo of the card, documentation from a health care provider, a signed attestation from the worker, or documentation from the state immunization information system. Also, evidence of the verification system must be available to L&I upon request.

Despite the updated guidelines, The L&I said some are staying the same. Employers can still require masks, with some exceptions, and employees can still wear masks regardless of their vaccination status. If an employee is not fully vaccinated or their status is unknown, they still have to wear masks and socially distance, and unvaccinated people are required to wear masks in public spaces.

They added employers cannot fire or discriminate against an employee who is at high risk of contracting the virus and is seeking accommodation that protects them from it.

The L&I also said the new guidance does not change masking rules for health care settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, or doctor’s offices; correctional facilities; homeless shelters; or schools. And the federal order requiring masks on public transportation remains in place.

Employers are encouraged to check with their local public health agency, which may have more stringent requirements or recommendations for masks and social distancing.

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