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Californians vaccinated against COVID-19 can throw away their masks on June 15

Californians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to get rid of their face masks in most situations starting next week, state officials confirmed on Wednesday.

The much-heralded change will take effect Tuesday, the same date as California’s planned full economic reopening, and will finally bring the country’s most populous state into compliance with COVID-19 guidelines dating almost a month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In short, Californians who are two weeks away from their last dose of vaccine will be allowed to mask-free in almost any setting, with a few exceptions which include transit hubs or aboard public transportation; in health and long-term care facilities; inside kindergartens through 12th grade, day care centers or other establishments for young people; in homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers; and in penitentiaries and detention centers.

In contrast, unvaccinated people will still need to mask themselves in indoor public places – including restaurants when not eating or drinking, retail stores and movie theaters.

California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr Mark Ghaly said the state’s updated mask guidelines “follow the science as we know it today.”

“We continue to learn more and more every day, every week, every month that we try to feed directly into our thinking,” he said on a conference call with reporters.

Going forward, he continued, “as soon as we have a feeling that the CDC makes any further changes or updates to its guidelines, we will review them and implement them accordingly in California.”

The responsibility of determining who is vaccinated and who is not will rest with business or site owners. Ghaly said operators can either allow customers to self-certify that they are vaccinated and therefore can enter without wearing a mask, implement some sort of vaccine verification system, or require all customers to wear a mask. .

“At the state level, we are giving all three options to private and independent operators to choose the one that best suits their community and their business,” Ghaly said.

Notably, Ghaly said state guidelines will make it clear that no one – even a fully vaccinated person – can be prevented from voluntarily wearing a mask as a condition of entering a business or participating in an activity.

Regardless of the state’s general rules, workplaces will always be subject to standards set by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, which votes on proposals submitted by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal / OSHA.

This council last week approved new standards proposed by Cal / OSHA requiring employees to continue to wear masks in certain cases, including if anyone working inside a room is not vaccinated or if his vaccination status is not known by the employer.

However, in a special meeting that begins Wednesday at 5 p.m., the board will receive information from both Cal / OSHA and the California Department of Public Health and “will consider the impact of the information presented on the interim standards. emergency COVID-19, ”according to an agenda for the meeting.

It may seem like a lifetime ago, but it wasn’t until April 6 that California officials announced their intention to completely reopen the state’s economy on June 15, removing restrictions that kept companies such as restaurants and gymnasiums open at no more than 50%. capacity.

At the time, the decision depended on two factors: an adequate supply of vaccines and a low number of hospitalizations. California has improved in both of these areas over the past two months.

By April 6, about 36% of Californians had received at least one dose of the vaccine; now, about 56% of Californians are at least partially vaccinated.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have also dropped statewide. On April 6, there were about 2,000 people in California hospitals, up from a peak of nearly 22,000 in early January. As of Monday, there were 1,015 COVID-19 patients in public hospitals, one of the lowest numbers since California began regularly tracking hospitalizations for COVID-19 more than 14 months ago.

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