California will maintain its current mask mandate until June 15, when the state will adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance, essentially allowing people vaccinated against COVID-19 to remove masks in most settings.
In a press call on Monday, California Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that the four-week period until the state moves to the federal guidance will “give Californians time to prepare,” as well as the state time to continue its “relentless focus” on getting vaccines to underserved groups.
“We continue to urge, from the mountaintops, all Californians to get vaccinated,” the health secretary said.
California’s current guidance, which will stay in place until mid-June, mandates that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks at crowded outdoor events and in indoor settings outside their home (except if visiting fully vaccinated people or one unvaccinated household). Unvaccinated people have to wear masks indoors, as well as outdoors anytime they are not physically distanced.
Last week, the CDC updated its guidance to allow vaccinated people to remove masks in most settings, outdoors and indoors, except in certain crowded indoor settings like public transportation, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.
On June 15, the state will also fully reopen, lifting all capacity restrictions on businesses.
California health secretary Ghaly noted that local governments and businesses can still implement stricter restrictions, saying the state’s guidance is “not a ceiling on restrictions, it’s a floor.”
There is “no disputing the science that masks are very important,” Ghaly said, adding however that with vaccine protection mounting, the state “needs to focus on where masking makes sense.” Vaccination wait times are low, allowing “anyone interested and eligible to be vaccinated,” per Ghaly.
California has seen a steep decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths since January. Nearly half of Californians have been fully vaccinated and less than 1% of COVID-19 tests are coming back positive for the virus.
Since the CDC’s relaxed masking guidance came out, people with disabilities have expressed concern about more people going maskless, raising the risk of infection to those who are immunocompromised, chronically ill or otherwise more vulnerable to severe cases of COVID-19.
The California Nurses Association had urged the state to keep its mask mandate in place, calling the CDC’s loosening of mask rules “a danger to public health” that will “take a disproportionate toll on frontline workers and communities of color.”