California Is Lifting Its Mask Mandate On Wednesday. Here’s What To Know.

California’s mask mandate officially lifts Wednesday, and all counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, except Santa Clara, plan to drop indoor face-covering requirements for vaccinated people. Yes, that means if you go to the movies or eat out at a restaurant, you no longer need to sport a mask in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano or Sonoma counties. Just south of the Bay Area, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties are also aligning with the state.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a Monday press conference that while masks are no longer required, he recommends that people use caution and continue to have them on hand for circumstances such as large indoor events.

There are a few notable exceptions, however.

Masking will continue to be required in certain settings, regardless of vaccination status

All people, vaccinated or not, will still need to wear face coverings in these settings:

-Public transit, including airplanes, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and hailed rides; and transit hubs such as airports and bus terminals
-Indoors at K-12 schools and in child care settings. Ghaly said Monday that masks will continue to be required in schools until at least Feb. 28, when the state plans to reassess the data.
-Emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers
-Homeless shelters
-Long-term care and adult and senior care facilities

The state continues to require that people who haven’t gotten their vaccinations wear masks in the above places as well as in all other indoor public settings. This means that if you’re not vaccinated and you go to the grocery store, the state says you must wear a face covering.

Businesses can ask patrons for proof of vaccination to determine whether individuals should wear a mask. They can also continue to require all patrons regardless of vaccination status to put on a face covering. Don’t be surprised if you go to a store and find a sign posted at the door asking you to mask even though the mandate was lifted.

When will Santa Clara lift the mask mandate?

Santa Clara County Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody said last week that while the omicron surge is subsiding, she believes the community transmission rate remains too high to stop requiring masking.

“Currently we are emerging from the omicron surge and it’s been about a month since the peak and our cases and our case rates are 40% of what they were,” Cody said. “But we still have very high levels of community transmission, still higher than at any other point in the pandemic pre-omicron. And so the risk of being exposed to someone with COVID in our community is still high.”

Santa Clara health officials are watching three metrics to determine when to lift the mask mandate. One of those metrics has already been met — that is 80% of all residents are fully vaccinated. The county is also requiring that COVID-19 hospitalizations are “low and stable,” in the judgment of the health officer, and the seven-day average of new cases per day is at or below 550 for at least a week.

Public health officials said they anticipate that indoor masking requirements will be dropped in the county “in a matter of weeks.”

California gives counties the option to adopt policies that are more strict than the state. Cody has a history of implementing rules that are more restrictive than other regions. She was the reported architect of the lockdowns two years ago at the start of the pandemic.


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