California is lifting more indoor mask rules. What does that mean

With the Omicron wave of the coronavirus flattening, California is poised to take more big steps in its mask rules.

Officials said masks will be strongly recommended — but no longer required — for unvaccinated people in most indoor settings starting Tuesday.

The statewide requirement that unvaccinated people remain masked in indoor public places has remained consistent since California fully reopened last June. But the rule has received relatively less attention, since the state has not required companies to verify the vaccination status of most customers.

Additionally, indoor masking will no longer be mandatory in California schools and daycares after March 11. It will be up to local school districts and private schools to make their own decisions on mask policy.

Here’s what you need to know:

Does it cover the whole state?

While the state guidelines serve as a benchmark for counties, officials note that local health jurisdictions will still be able to maintain more restrictive rules if they feel it is warranted. But how many will choose that remains an open question.

On Feb. 16, most counties in California — including San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura — allowed the state’s two-month universal mask-wearing order in public places to expire. interiors for vaccinated persons.

The cities of Long Beach and Pasadena, which operate their own independent LA County public health departments, followed suit on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Certainly, businesses and places are allowed to make their own decisions regarding mandatory mask use. A number of stores, for example, have still retained mask-wearing signs in their businesses.

What about LA County?

Los Angeles County is one of the few counties in California that has retained a universal mask-wearing ordinance for anyone age 2 and older in indoor public places. But public health officials are already expected to make revisions to that rule, given a separate set of recommendations released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

LA County health officials said they plan to present some options for a new masking policy at Tuesday’s board of oversight meeting. They said they would then consult with businesses and labor groups, and a new masking plan could become clearer later this week.

Initially, health workers said they would waive the local requirement for those vaccinated after the area reaches “moderate transmission” as defined by the CDC and remains there for seven days. This would mean registering less than 730 new coronavirus cases per day over a weekly period.

But the CDC on Friday relaxed its own guidelines for when members of the public should wear masks in indoor public places, moving away from a system focused on coronavirus cases and testing positivity rates toward a set of criteria which also takes into account COVID-19. impact on hospitals.

Under this new framework, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking only in areas where the COVID-19 community level is considered high. Based on last week’s measurements, LA County falls into this category, but more recent data indicates the county could be reclassified to the moderate level as soon as this week.

Do I still have to wear a mask?

California “still strongly recommends” wearing a mask in indoor public places.

Even under the new rules, face coverings will still be required for everyone in certain settings identified by the state or federal government – ​​such as on public transit or in health care facilities, correctional facilities and shelters. emergency or homeless.

Some experts said wearing masks in crowded public spaces made sense, even if it was optional.

A recent study by scientists from UC Berkeley and the California Department of Public Health illustrated the effectiveness of masks in preventing coronavirus infection.

The study, released by the CDC, found that those who always wear a mask indoors are less likely to test positive for the coronavirus than those who do not wear a mask consistently.

Those who wore N95 or KN95 masks in indoor public places were 83% less likely to test positive, and those who wore surgical masks were 66% less likely.

Los Angeles Times

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