California Announces End To Indoor Mask Mandate For Vaccinated Individuals

On February 7, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California will lift the statewide COVID-19 indoor mask mandate in public settings for vaccinated individuals effective February 16, 2022 at 12:01 a.m. The updated California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Guidance (see here and here) continues to strongly recommend masking for vaccinated individuals, with use of vaccines (including boosters) to prevent serious disease, hospitalization and/or death.

Unvaccinated persons over the age of 2 years are still required to wear masks in all indoor settings.  In light of the revised  State mandate, masking continues to be required in the following circumstances:

  • All indoor public spaces (until February 15, 2022 only)
  • All workplaces (until February 15, 2022 only)
  • Public transit (required regardless of vaccination status even after February 16, 2022)
  • Healthcare settings, including long term care facilities (required regardless of vaccination status even after February 16, 2022)
  • Adult and senior care facilities (required regardless of vaccination status even after February 16, 2022)
  • Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare, and other youth settings (children and teachers required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, at least until February 28, 2022)
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers (required regardless of vaccination status even after February 16, 2022)
  • Homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers (required regardless of vaccination status even after February 16, 2022)
  • Mega Events: Per the updated CPDH guidance, definitions for indoor and outdoor mega events will return to the pre-Omicron surge guidance (from 500 to 1,000 attendees for indoor events, and 5,000 to 10,000 attendees for outdoor events) after February 15, 2022.  CDPH has updated requirements for attending mega events, like concerts and sporting events.  Prior to attending such events, attendees will now be required to provide either proof of vaccination, a negative antigen COVID-19 test within one day of the event, or a negative PCR test within two days of the event. 

Guidance for Businesses, Venue Operators or Hosts 

In settings where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals, businesses, venue operators or hosts may choose to:

  • Provide information to all patrons, guests and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.
  • Implement vaccine verification to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask.
  • Require all patrons to wear masks.

Exemptions To Masks Requirements

The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times under the State’s new guidelines:

  • Children under two years old are exempt at all times, due to risk of suffocation.
  • Those with the following conditions are also exempt: a medical condition, a mental health condition and/or a physical disability that precludes wearing a mask. This includes those for whom a mask could obstruct breathing, who are unconscious or incapacitated, unable to remove a mask without assistance.
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • People for whom wearing a mask would create a risk as they work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators, or workplace safety guidelines.

Counties and Cities Take Different Approaches

While several Bay Area counties have announced that they will follow the State’s directive and lift indoor mask mandates, certain cities and counties, such as Santa Clara County and Los Angeles County, have indicated that they will continue to keep existing indoor masking requirements in place. The following Bay Area cities and counties have indicated that they will lift their indoor mask mandates for vaccinated individuals, effective February 16, 2022, for most if not all indoor public settings: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and the City of Berkeley. We recommend checking specific county requirements to identify additional requirements or differences from the new state-wide regulations.

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