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CDPH Recommends Indoor Masks

The risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection will remain in California until the state reaches community immunity with vaccinations, especially in communities heavily impacted by COVID-19, according to a statement by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Continued use of face coverings helps prevent COVID-19 transmission among people with higher risk of infection (those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised), those with prolonged, cumulative exposures, and individuals whose vaccination status is unknown, says CDPH.

California has updated its masking guidance after review of current CDC recommendations. Below is a series of FAQs from CDPH about the current recommendation. 

Why not issue a mask mandate instead?

Our updated masking guidance incorporates recent CDC guidance and recommends universal mask use for indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status. As always, local health jurisdictions may put in place guidance more restrictive than the state based on local conditions. Vaccines remain the best protection against COVID-19, including the highly infectious Delta variant. We urge all who are eligible to get vaccinated, as it is the most important thing we can do to help end this pandemic.

When will this recommendation end?

We are continuously assessing and updating our guidance based on the latest science and data.

Do fully vaccinated people ever have to wear face coverings?

There is no mandate in place for vaccinated people to wear face coverings. CDPH has issued a recommendation only (except for the bulleted items below). To achieve universal masking in indoor public settings, CDPH is now recommending that fully vaccinated people also mask in indoor public settings across California. This adds an extra precautionary measure for all to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, especially in communities currently seeing the highest transmission rates.  Masks are also required of everyone in limited settings required by federal, state or local rules. There are some situations identified by the CDC where face coverings are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, including, but not limited to:

In certain settings, surgical masks are also recommended. See the full CDPH Masking Guidance for more information.

When must unvaccinated people wear masks?

In addition to the places listed above where everyone must still wear face coverings, and consistent with CDC guidance, masks are required for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (for example: live performances, indoor malls, movie theaters, places of worship, indoor mega events, and indoor museums). For additional information on types of masks, the most effective masks, and ensuring a well-fitted mask, individuals should refer to CDPH Get the Most out of Masking.

Does anyone need to continue to wear masks outdoors?

In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. However, per CDC recommendations, in areas of substantial to high transmission, people who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.

Do visitors in healthcare settings also need to wear a mask?

Yes, all persons (vaccinated and unvaccinated) must wear a mask when visiting a healthcare facility or a long-term care facility (like a skilled-nursing facility). See the state public health officer order issued July 26, 2021, for a full list of health facilities and high-risk congregate settings where masks are required of everyone. 

How does a business verify someone is vaccinated?

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

  • Provide information to all customers, guests and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry
  • Require proof of vaccination
  • Require all patrons to wear masks

Businesses may deem a customer, guest or attendee to have self-attested to being vaccinated, or to have met approved masking exemptions, if the business has prominently displayed signage prior to entry explaining the requirements for unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask and the individual enters the business premises without wearing a mask. No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

How would a business provide information to their customers about mask requirements?

A business may post a sign or placard at the entrance to their business notifying customers of the mask requirements. Additionally, businesses may post such information on their website or at point of ticket sale prior to entry or notify their members of masking requirements.   

Can a business require everyone to wear a mask, even those who are already vaccinated?

Yes, businesses have the option of requiring all patrons to wear a mask while in their facility or place of business instead of verifying the vaccination status of each patron.

Can I be prevented from wearing a mask?

No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

Who is exempt from wearing a mask?

The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

  • Persons younger than 2 years old, as very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask, including persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise 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
  • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines

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