Mandatory mask era ends in California

State authorities announced that as of this first of March, the state of California already will not require masks for unvaccinated people in some indoor locations but yes they recommend to continue using them.

Additionally, as of March 12, schools and daycare centers will not require face masks, but they will be highly recommended.

Masks will still be required in all high-transmission settings such as public transportation, emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and long-term care facilities.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Secretary of Health and Human Services, said at a virtual news conference Monday that California is instituting four levels of mask guidance.

Level one is optional, level two is recommended, level three is highly recommended, and level four is required. California is moving from tier four to tier three for all vaccinated and unvaccinated people in public.

He added that the guidance is statewide and local health jurisdictions and school districts have the option to keep or add additional requirements.

The new rule for the use of face masks is being shared with the states of Oregon and Washington, which will implement similar measures.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said California continues to adjust policies based on the latest science and data.

“Masks are an effective tool to minimize the spread of the virus and its future variants, especially when transmission rates are high,” Newsom said. “We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take science-based action to move California forward.”

measures at the county level

Los Angeles County Public Health (DPH) Director Barbara Ferrer is expected to articulate a plan on how the county will adjust its mask mandates and restrictions this Tuesday during the Board of Supervisors meeting.

Ferrer announced last week that as of February 25, the use of face masks is optional for people vaccinated in establishments that verify the vaccination status of their visitors.

Until now, unvaccinated customers must continue to wear masks indoors, even after showing a negative Covid-19 test, unless they are eating or drinking.

DPH said Monday that the measures to cover the mouth and nose in schools will align with the state and change to strongly recommend indoor masking requirements in child care sites and schools from grades K-12 to from March 12.

School districts are encouraged to consult with teachers, staff, parents, and students as they consider appropriate security protections for their school community, recognizing that many people may want to continue with additional protections.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger praised the DPH decision, saying it is a much-needed step in the right direction.

“It is clear to me that as the increase in Omicron continues to decline in Los Angeles County, we need to implement flexible Covid-19 infection control policies and move away from rigid approaches,” Barger said in a statement. “The time for mandatory masking mandates has come to an end.”

She added that school settings should make decisions based on local data, along with input from parents and staff.

Meanwhile, Jim Mangia, president and CEO of the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, said that from a strictly scientific perspective, it would be ideal if everyone kept wearing masks indoors until Covid-19 is officially over, but he understands. that people are tired above all because the pandemic has been extremely politicized from day one.

“At this point, the people facing severe illness from Covid-19 are almost exclusively those who are not vaccinated,” Mangia said. “I hope that the lifting of the mask mandate for vaccinated people will now help encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated, while cases remain relatively low.”

Dr. Ghaly said that there are still many questions, mainly from parents and communities that doubt the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, since they have not been approved for so long.

So far, the group with the most people fully vaccinated in the state of California is 18 to 49 years old with 77%; while the one with the fewest vaccines is the group from 5 to 11 years old with 29% of children fully vaccinated.

Ghaly added that communities with African American and Latino people in California are the most affected by Covid-19 and the least vaccinated.

“So as we talk about increasing vaccinations among younger Californians, our focus is also on making sure we keep booster shots available, continuing to deliver clear and consistent messages about the importance to older and more vulnerable Californians,” Ghaly said.