Newsom clarifies: Outdoor mask mandate will end after June 15

Coronavirus

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since Newsom made public statements Wednesday indicating that mask mandates would only be lifted for outdoor settings on June 15.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state will not require people to wear masks outdoors after June 15, but that some indoor requirements will likely remain in place.

The governor’s remarks appeared to walk back statements he made in an interview the previous day, which had been widely interpreted as indicating mask requirements would be lifted in nearly all circumstances by mid-June.

“Outdoor masking, if we reach that threshold, will be substantially — in fact, will be eliminated,” he said Wednesday. “Indoor activities, we will still likely have some mask guidelines and mandates but we hope sooner than later that those will be lifted as well.”

The governor did not provide specific details on the policies, but said the state health department would soon.

Newsom’s original comments Tuesday came in an interview with Fox 11’s Elex Michaelson. Michaelson asked the governor, “Are we looking at masks after June 15?”

“No. Only in those settings that are indoor — only in those massively large settings, where people — from around the world, not just around the country — are convening, and where people are mixing in real dense spaces,” he replied. “Otherwise … no mandates.”

But after Michaelson, the Associated Press and other outlets reported on the interview, Newsom took the podium for a news conference in Monterey County Wednesday and seemed to alter the earlier remarks, saying that indoor limitations would remain after all.

“Newsom confirms California plans to eliminate its OUTDOOR mask guidelines on targeted reopening date of June 15,” wrote Ashley Zavala, who reports on the capitol for FOX 5.

Contacted about the discrepancy, a state health department spokesperson pointed back to Wednesday’s news conference and said that update was meant to clarify the state’s current guidelines.

“We will continue to update face coverings guidance as appropriate, with the goal of continuing to loosen restrictions as more people get vaccinated,” the official wrote. “Californians should continue to follow the state’s current face coverings guidance, here.”

Newsom announced last month the state would lift nearly all of its coronavirus restrictions on June 15 if the state’s case numbers continued to improve. But at the time, Newsom said the mask mandate would stay.

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” the governor said the day of the reopening announcement.

“We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic. We will need to remain vigilant, and continue the practices that got us here – wearing masks and getting vaccinated – but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.” 

California has required people to wear masks in public places since June 18, 2020.

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