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State unmasks new COVID-19 workplace guidance, but some La Jolla businesses are still playing it safe

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla is open to members and non-members without an appointment.
The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla is open to members and non-members without an appointment. Masks are optional for visitors fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Though California has ended most of its COVID-19 mandates on mask wearing, social distancing and capacity limits and handed down relaxed guidance on workplace protocols, many La Jolla businesses are still wondering how to implement and enforce the new standards.

The June 17 workplace guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, made effective the same day by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order, state that fully vaccinated employees no longer need to routinely wear masks indoors and no employees need to do so outdoors.

The new rules permit employees to wear a mask even if not required.

Physical distancing requirements and partitions between areas also are eliminated under the latest guidelines.

The new standards mean some La Jolla businesses that were waiting on further guidance last week have adjusted their practices. Others aren’t as quick to throw in the mask.

Ahead of the state’s full reopening June 15, LifeTime La Jolla gym owner Jo Cullen said she would be turning to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, for guidance but that she looked forward to “opening up more spaces and classes.”

With California dropping its COVID-19 tier system and most mask requirements, many local businesses and organizations say guests won’t have to mask up but some pandemic practices will remain for now.

However, she said June 21 that she was still waiting to hear from the LifeTime corporate office, which is “working on next steps and what that will look like for members and team members.”

At the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, not much has changed with the new guidance. Early last week, communications director Lidia Rossner said the plan was to open to non-members and remove the appointment requirement to visit exhibitions. At a recent outdoor event, mask wearing and social distancing were requested but not required. The Athenaeum also was planning reduced capacity for upcoming events.

With the new guidance, “we are open for members and non-members,” Rossner said. “The exhibitions can be viewed without an appointment. Face coverings are optional for fully vaccinated visitors. Event and library capacity is limited to 70 percent for now.”

Trey Foshee, who owns Galaxy Taco in La Jolla Shores and George’s at the Cove on Prospect Street, said the June 17 workplace rules include “no guidance on how to police their ruling. … There are privacy laws that come into play. I don’t want to put our management in the position to police who is and who isn’t vaccinated and then make sure the non-vaccinated are masked up.”

“We are keeping masks on until the end of the month,” when he will revisit the issue, Foshee said.

Jason Peaslee, owner of The Cottage restaurant, said his unvaccinated employees are wearing masks, while those who are vaccinated may take them off.

However, the elimination of distancing guidelines won’t be visible at The Cottage for a while. “[We’re] still not seating too close to each other,” Peaslee said.

Annalise Dewhurst, director of marketing at the La Valencia Hotel, said, “As of now, all La Valencia Hotel team members are wearing masks.”

Representatives of the J. McLaughlin clothing store, who said June 14 that all its employees would be wearing masks, did not respond to a request for comment following the June 17 guidelines.

Effective June 15, fully vaccinated people in California can move about mask-free in most settings, except on public transportation and in transit hubs, K-12 schools, health care settings, correctional facilities and homeless shelters.

Unvaccinated people are still expected to wear facial coverings in indoor settings such as stores, restaurants, theaters and family entertainment centers.

Businesses and gatherings are now exempt from capacity limits, though attendance at large indoor events may require COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test. ◆