California Department of Public Health officials announced on Wednesday that the indoor mask mandate that took effect in mid-December has now been extended. Originally scheduled to be reviewed on Jan. 15, officials on Jan. 5 announced the extension of the mandate through Feb. 15, 2022.
Officials said the COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in preventing serious disease, hospitalization, and death from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected and spread the virus which is transmitted through the air and concentrates indoors.
“To ensure that we collectively protect the health and well-being of all Californians; keep schools open for in-person instruction; and allow California’s economy to remain open and thrive, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, until February 15, 2022. This requirement will be updated as CDPH continues to assess conditions on an ongoing basis,” the department stated in announcing the extension.
The measure is designed to bring an added layer of mitigation as the Omicron variant continues to increase in prevalence across California, the United States, and the world and spreads much more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant.
According to CDPH figures, over the last two weeks, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by more than sixfold and hospitalizations have doubled. While the percentage of Californians fully vaccinated and boosted continues to increase, there are some areas of the state where vaccine coverage is low, putting individuals and communities at greater risk for COVID-19. Given the current hospital census, which is over capacity, the surge in cases and hospitalizations has materially impacted California’s health care delivery system within many regions of the state. Staffing levels are also increasingly impacted by COVID-19 transmission in many critical sectors.
The masking requirement in California schools has allowed the state to keep schools open when compared to other parts of the country. California accounts for roughly 12 percent of all U.S. students, but only 1 percent of COVID-19 related school closures.
Masks are required for all individuals in all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status from December 15, 2021 through February 15, 2022 (surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit are recommended).
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.
The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:
Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
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.