Fully vaccinated Californians will be able to stop wearing face masks in most situations beginning Tuesday, when the bulk of COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but masks will remain mandated in some settings, including at indoor K-12 schools and on public transportation, according to rules released Wednesday.
Masks will also still be required in health-care, child-care and correctional facilities, and at homeless shelters. Private business owners and venue operators, meanwhile, will still have the option of requiring all patrons to wear masks.
The state guidance on mask-wearing largely mirrors rules announced last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, people who are not vaccinated will still be required to wear masks in indoor public settings, including retail stores, movie theaters and government offices.
But how the mask-wearing rules will be enforced will vary from place to place, with Ghaly laying out three options for business owners and event-venue operators:
— businesses and venues can publicly post rules regarding mask-wearing and allow visitors to self-attest that they are vaccinated;
— they can “implement a vaccine-verification system to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask”; or
— they can simply require all patrons to wear a mask.
“This is the choice of the venue and the operators,” Ghaly said. “… We at the state level are giving all three options to private and independent operators to choose which is best suited for their community and their businesses.”
Ghaly noted that the self-attestation option means the state is “not requiring businesses to, for example, have somebody at the door checking for vaccination status.” He said businesses choosing to post the rules and rely on self-attestation are putting the onus on individuals “to self-attest to their vaccine status by wearing or not wearing a mask.”
He conceded the system is not perfect.
“Of course all systems of verification are fraught with challenges,” he said, adding that state officials determined that “people’s sense of being able to protect their own information” and the ability to “operate a business in a certain way” were important goals.
“And then business owners do have a choice,” he said. “… Some business owners very well may decide that the honor system as you’re calling it is not sufficient, and they’re going to require all patrons to their business to wear mask.”
The guidance, being formally released Wednesday afternoon, will also state that nobody can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of taking part in an activity or patronizing a business.
Still undetermined, however, are the masking rules that will apply to California workplaces and office settings. The board of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, of Cal-OSHA, is scheduled to meet Wednesday night to again discuss its regulations.
The board last week recommended worksite rules that would require all workers in indoor settings to continue wearing masks regardless of vaccination status, unless one person is working alone in a room or if all people in a room are fully vaccinated and not showing any symptoms of COVID-19. The rules would also allow physical distancing requirements to be scrapped indoors and outdoors if employers make N-95 respirator masks available to non-vaccinated workers.
Cal-OSHA’s proposed rules also won’t require masks for workers in outdoor settings, except at outdoor “mega events” with 10,000 or more people. At those events, workers would have to wear face masks regardless of their vaccination status.
The Cal-OSHA proposal has met with pushback because it conflicts with the CDC and now the state’s masking regulations. That pushback, including from top state health officials, prompted the scheduling of Wednesday night’s meeting.
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