SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Californians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can ditch face masks in most settings starting Tuesday, when the state plans to shelve most pandemic-related restrictions, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The eased masking restrictions will align California with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than a month after the federal agency amended its rules to allow vaccinated people to go mask-free in more places.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive their last COVID-19 vaccine jab.
Where will masks still be required for everyone?
Starting June 15, masks aren’t required for fully vaccinated people, except in these settings:
- On public transit like planes ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares
- At transport hubs like airports, bus terminals, marinas, train stations, seaports or other ports, subway stations
- Indoors at K-12 schools and child care facilities
- All health care settings and long term care facilities
- State and local detention correctional facilities and detention centers
- Homeless shelters, as well as emergency shelters and cooling centers
What about unvaccinated people?
People who aren’t fully vaccinated still have to wear masks at all indoor public settings and businesses, including at shops, restaurants, theaters and government offices, according to Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services.
“We know that the risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection will remain remain in California until we reach higher levels of community immunity, we know that about 15% of our population across the state — those are young people under the age of 12 — are not themselves eligible to be vaccinated,” Ghaly said. “So we have a whole cohort of Californians who remain susceptible.”
As of Thursday, about 54% of eligible people were fully vaccinated, according to state data.
Can businesses require customers to wear masks?
In places where masks are required for unvaccinated people, businesses and venues have three options, according to Ghaly.
Businesses can either require all their patrons to wear masks, implement a verification method to determine if people are unvaccinated and required to wear a mask, or just tell all patrons about vaccine requirements and let people “self-attest” that they’re in compliance before letting them in, according to the health department.
“If somebody comes into their business or their operation without a mask, it should be considered a self attestation for someone being vaccinated,” Ghaly said. “So we are not requiring businesses to, for example, have somebody at the door checking for vaccine status as a way to comply with this.”
Ghaly said posting of the mask guidance is enough to comply with the state’s requirements.
What about at workplace settings?
At workplaces, employers have to follow the Cal/OSHA’s standards.
On Wednesday, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board revised a recently-adopted rule that would have only allowed workers to skip wearing masks if every employee in the room is fully vaccinated.
Next week, the board will recommend new changes. It’s not clear what they will be, but officials have said they will try to more closely conform the workplace rules with public health guidelines.
Can you still wear a mask, even if you’re vaccinated?
State officials said no one can be stopped from wearing a mask, and business and venues can’t tell people to take them off to be able to participate in an activity or enter into a business.
Who’s exempt from wearing masks?
According to state guidance, here’s who’s exempt from wearing a mask, even if they’re not vaccinated:
- Children younger than two years old
- People with medical or mental health conditions, or disabilities that prevent them from wearing a mask.
- Those who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired.
- People who can’t wear a mask because it would create a risk to them during their work. But that’s determined by local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.