On May 17, 2021, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly, announced that California would begin following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”)’s new guidelines regarding the lifting of mask restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals on June 15, 2021. These new guidelines provide that those who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus no longer need to wear masks outdoors or in most indoor settings.
After serving as one of the major epicenters for the COVID-19 virus in the United States in the beginning of this year, as of May 17, 2021, California’s positivity rate has fallen below 1% and the state has administered over 34.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, a large percentage of California’s population remains unvaccinated. By way of an example, 43% of residents over the age of 16 in Los Angeles County have been vaccinated, meaning that more than half of the adult population in the county remains vulnerable to the virus.
California is holding off on adjusting its mask restrictions in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines until its planned reopening of the economy, which is based on Governor Gavin Newsom’s previous announcement that if cases remain low, the state would drop nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on June 15, 2021. As explained by Dr. Ghaly, California’s four-week delay in implementing the CDC’s guidelines will allow Californians and businesses time to prepare and adjust to the new rules as California continues pushing its vaccination efforts. While major retailers such as Walmart, Costco and Trader Joe’s have announced that they would not require vaccinated shoppers to wear masks based on the CDC’s guidelines, all businesses operating in California are expected to adhere to the state’s specific rules and keep their mask requirements in place until California announces that it will be following the CDC’s guidance.
As the rules currently stand, Californians are not required to wear masks outdoors, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated, when they are walking, biking, or running alone or with members of their household, or when they are attending small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people. Once California aligns its mask restrictions with the new CDC guidance, fully vaccinated individuals will be able to go to grocery stores, gyms, restaurants and movie theatres without wearing a mask, but the mask mandate will remain in effect for certain public places such as hospitals, nursing homes and shelters, as well as for traveling, including air travel and mass public transit.