Information put out by the California Department of Public Health on Monday, Feb. 7 announced the repeal of the indoor mask mandate – for vaccinated individuals – next week.
Changes taking effect on Wednesday, Feb. 16 according to the CDPH directive include:
Universal masking shall remain required in only specified settings.
Only unvaccinated persons are required to mask in all indoor public settings.
Fully vaccinated individuals are recommended to continue indoor masking when the risk may be high.
Providing some background, health officials noted that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining across the state.
“This is due in large part to the collective efforts of Californians to get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear masks,” the CDPH release stated.
A universal indoor masking requirement was reinstated on Dec. 15, 2021, to add a layer of mitigation as the Omicron variant, a Variant of Concern as labeled by the World Health Organization, increased in prevalence across California, the United States, and the world and spread much more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant. Implementing the universal masking requirement in all indoor public settings during the winter season was an important tool to decrease community transmission during the highly infectious Omicron surge.
“The current hospital census is still over capacity, but the dramatic surge in cases and hospitalizations due to the highly infectious Omicron variant over the last two months has declined significantly,” continued the CDPH release. “Californians are also increasingly knowledgeable about how to protect themselves and their loved ones with effective masks when there may be risk of COVID-19 exposure. Accordingly, it is now appropriate for the universal indoor masking requirement to expire on Feb. 15, 2022 as scheduled.”
And while the indoor masking requirement for vaccinated individuals will end, the CDPH said masking will still be in effect on school campuses.
Statistics from the state health officials indicated the masking requirement in California schools has allowed state schools to remain open when compared to other parts of the country.
“California accounts for roughly 12 percent of all U.S. students, but accounted for only 1 percent of COVID-19 related school closures during the Omicron surge,” indicated the statement.
Masks will still required for unvaccinated individuals after Feb. 15 in indoor public settings and businesses such as retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public.
There are also certain indoor settings where masking will still be required for all, regardless of vaccination status.
Those include: public transit; in transportation hubs such as bus terminals, train stations, airports, etc.; indoors in K-12 schools and childcare; emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers; healthcare settings; state and local correctional facilities and detention centers, homeless shelters and long term care settings and adult and senior care facilities.
Additionally, fully vaccinated individuals are recommended to continue indoor masking when the risk may be high.
For additional information on types of masks, the most effective masks, and ensuring a well-fitted mask, individuals should refer to CDPH Get the Most out of Masking and see CDPH Masking Guidance Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
CDPH guidelines also indicate the following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:
Persons younger than two years old.
Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.