California Universal Mask Mandate Starts. What Are The Exceptions And When Does It End?

California’s statewide mask mandate goes into effect Wednesday. For those in the Golden State, this means everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated, must wear a face covering in indoor public spaces — for the most part.

This comes after COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have increased across the state and with the detection of the omicron variant.


Some people are exempt from this latest mask rule, according to the California Department of Health.

This includes children under 2 years old and individuals with medical and mental health conditions or a disability that prevents wearing a mask. People who are hearing impaired or need to communicate with a person who is hearing impaired are also not subject to the mandate.

Other individuals can be exempt if wearing a mask creates risk at work, “as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.”

On Friday, the health department shared additional details about exemptions which include:

  • * When eating or drinking
  • * People working alone in a room or office
  • * People receiving medical or cosmetic service on the nose or face
  • * People who are actively performing at in indoor live or recorded settings. Performers are advised by the CDPH to get tested for COVID at least once weekly.
  • * Employees who wear respiratory protection
  • * Vaccinated people attending religious worship services
  • * Other people who are exempted from face coverings according to other CDPH rules

Local governments may have their own exemptions to the mask rule as well.


The statewide mandate goes into effect in counties that do not have existing guidelines on masks in indoor public spaces. This affects about 50% of Californians who are not currently under a county-level mask mandate.

Local health departments that had mask requirements before Dec. 13 will continue mandating existing health orders.

For example, San Francisco, San Mateo and Contra Costa counties will have exemptions due to previous regulations. Individuals who are vaccinated and live in these areas will be allowed to remove their face coverings when in certain indoor spaces, such as their workplace or the gym.


The universal mask mandate was implemented, along with other COVID-19 recommendations, on Dec. 15 for four weeks. The order is set to end on Jan. 15.


The state recommends those who travel in or out of California get tested for COVID within three to five days.

And the state now requires those without proof of vaccination attending events with more than 1,000 people to show a negative COVID-19 test within one day. The previous guidelines required a test within 72 hours.


For individual county mandates, check with your local health department. Here are a few already existing orders:


Sacramento County issued an order on July 29, requiring everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear masks in indoor public settings. This includes workplaces, theaters, retail stores and venues.

People are exempt from this requirement if they are working alone in a closed office or room, actively eating or drinking, or swimming or showering at the gym. Individuals who are receiving medical care or cosmetic service on their nose or face can also remove their masks.

The county also follows exemption rules as outlined by the CDPH.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles County published an updated masking order on Sept. 28, requiring masks in settings such as indoor public areas, public transit, schools, healthcare spaces and airports. This applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Everyone must wear a mask when in these settings unless they are eating or drinking, showering, receiving personal care service or working alone in a separate room.

Orange County

Orange County residents, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, must wear a mask when on public transportation and at transportation hubs, such as airports and train stations.

Masks are required at schools, childcare, healthcare facilities and senior care facilities.

Those unvaccinated must also wear a mask when in indoor public spaces. This includes retail stores, restaurants and government offices.

This mandate was updated on Nov. 17.

Children under 2, people with medical, mental conditions, disabilities or are hearing impaired are exempt. So are people who are communicating with others who are hearing impaired and people whom wearing a face covering would create a risk.


There is no nation-wide mask mandate, but individuals traveling for the holidays should be aware of federal regulations requiring masks on airplanes and in airports.




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