California will wait until June 15 to align with federal guidance that no longer requires people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear face coverings, officials said Monday.
The June date is when state officials are expected to lift most virus-related restrictions if current positive trends continue.
“On June 15, California plans to implement the CDC’s guidelines around masking to allow fully vaccinated Californians to go without a mask in most indoor settings. This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change while we continue our relentless focus on delivering vaccines, particularly in underserved communities,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services secretary.
“We urge all Californians to get vaccinated to ensure that infection and hospitalization rates remain low across the state and that we can all return to the activities we love,” he added.
Face coverings are not required outdoors except at crowded events, and — for unvaccinated people — when physical distancing cannot be maintained. In indoor settings outside the home including public transportation and schools, face coverings continue to be required regardless of vaccination status.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County officials scheduled a briefing for 1 p.m. Monday, when they were expected to stress to the public the need to continue the practice of physical distancing and wearing a cloth face covering.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance, saying that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can largely stop wearing a mask in most indoor and outdoor situations.
That announcement, however, did not immediately reverse existing mask-wearing requirements in Los Angeles County or in California as a whole.
L.A. County requirements allow fully vaccinated residents to shed masks while indoors with other fully vaccinated people. But mask mandates remain in place for everyone working at or patronizing businesses — such as grocery stores or retail shops.
The revised CDC guidance was announced in response to repeated studies showing the effectiveness of the vaccines, offering people who have been inoculated a great deal of protection against infection or severe illness if they are infected.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
The new CDC guidance does not completely drop mask recommendations for vaccinated people. Face coverings are still recommended in some settings — such as aboard planes and buses or in crowded settings such as hospitals.
Supermarket chains including Trader Joe’s, Costco and Walmart have dropped the mask requirement for fully vaccinated customers, though store officials said they will not be asking for proof of vaccination.