New California workplace rules are set to change Friday with stricter requirements in place for employee testing and mask-wearing.
Under the updated safety measures, employers must provide COVID-19 testing at no cost to employees after exposure to the virus. Self-administered or at-home tests will no longer be allowed. - instead, all tests must be sent to a clinical laboratory, an employee can take a test in front of a supervisor or an employee can take a test in front of a health care representative. Employees are still required to wear masks indoors, but Cal-OSHA has tightened its definition of what qualifies as a face covering. The new definition includes a surgical mask, medical procedure mask, a respirator or a fabric mask with at least two layers, and has been extended as a mandate through February 15.
Following these new in-person workplace mandates, new data and business trends indicate less Californians will be returning to the office in the future and the economic impact of this shift is mixed. The State of California is projecting to save roughly $22.5 million per year by ending office leases in over 30 cities. Over the next three years, the state expects to reduce leased office space by 20%, which would save about $84 million per year. Meanwhile, San Francisco officials predict around 15% of office workers will be remote in 2023, which they say will permanently hurt local business' tax revenue and employee livelihoods. Certain businesses that depended on a steady stream of in-person state workers have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some restaurants closing. State worker union representatives have said the shift to remote work is making recruitment more difficult.