Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tweaked their mask guidelines to account for the effect of COVID-19 on communities, as opposed to raw case counts. Under this new metric, 70% of areas were identified as low-to-medium risk zones that can safely lift mask mandates. In response, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has updated its own mask policies to fall in line with the CDC’s recommendations. Since these guidelines are not federal law, local governments and private businesses can still enforce separate policies. Before you throw away your box of N95s, read up on the new updates to the California mask mandates.
Mask Requirements Indoors
After March 1, 2022, unvaccinated individuals are no longer required to mask in an indoor public setting. Regardless of vaccination status, universal masking will only be required in certain high-risk areas, such as:
Regardless of your vaccination status, the CDPH still strongly recommends masking indoors in public settings or businesses. This includes retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centres, meetings and state and local government offices. As previously mentioned, local health departments and businesses can still enforce their own mask protocols should they see fit to do so.
New School Mask Policies
On March 11, 2022, the California government lifted universal masking protocols from schools and childcare facilities. In a joint statement by the California, Oregon and Washington governors, the governors cited dropping case numbers and hospitalizations as the main reason. The CDPH officially downgraded the mask requirement to a strong recommendation, in this setting.
Previous guidelines for mask exceptions still apply. You can be exempt from mask requirements if you have relevant physical or mental handicaps or you are a child under two years old. For example, those with hearing disabilities and the people communicating with them can take off their masks. If masks cause workplace safety concerns, they can also be removed in that context.
The Next Step
The loosening of mask restrictions falls in line with Governor Gavin Newsom’s new SMARTER Plan: The Next Phase of California’s COVID-19 response. SMARTER – Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education, and Treatment – lays out goals, metrics and plans to move from a “pandemic” approach to living with the virus. Building off of experience and scientific advances, the government plans to create COVID mitigation strategies that are both effective and adaptable. To learn more, you can refer to the official SMARTER government PDF.
Coronavirus and its multiple strains are likely to persist in the foreseeable future, possibly even forever. The new goal is to reach a point where COVID exists in a more manageable capacity. Though it is still best to be on your guard, the new mask policies suggest that the situation is trending upwards.