California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced in a statement on Monday that California’s mask mandate would stay in place despite a growing number of calls from lawmakers and citizens to end it sooner.
Throughout the last few months, mask mandates nationwide have slowly been cancelled, including Texas ending their mask mandate on March 10th, Maryland and Virginia ending indoor mask requirements on Saturday, New York ending their mandate this Wednesday, as well as the CDC itself announcing last week that it is now safe to remove outdoor and most indoor mask requirements nationwide.
However, despite California having the lowest COVID-19 case rate in the nation and well over half the state’s population having received at least one dose as of Monday, state officials have refused to move the June 15th date to remove the mask mandate. Many officials, including Governor Gavin Newsom, hinted last week that the mandate could be removed sooner due to the new federal regulations and because of many experts noting that mask mandates, especially for those already vaccinated, send the message that there is still a danger even though there isn’t one.
But on Monday, Ghaly ended any hope for an early end to the mask mandate by confirming the June 15th date to give time for more vaccinations and to better ease into the mask requirement ending for all vaccinated Californians.
“California has made amazing progress in our fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Ghaly in a statement on Monday. “With more than 34 million vaccines administered, we now have among the lowest case and positivity rates in the nation. On June 15, California plans to implement the CDC’s guidelines around masking to allow fully vaccinated Californians to go without a mask in most indoor settings. This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change while we continue our relentless focus on delivering vaccines, particularly in underserved communities.
“We urge all Californians to get vaccinated to ensure that infection and hospitalization rates remain low across the state and that we can all return to the activities we love. Until June 15, when California plans to fully reopen the economy, California will keep our existing guidance around masks in place.
“As of May 3, 2021, face coverings are no longer required outdoors except at crowded events, and for unvaccinated people, when physical distancing cannot be maintained. In indoor settings outside of one’s home, including public transportation and schools, face coverings continue to be required regardless of vaccination status.”
A June 15th mask mandate end date
Many county officials welcomed the news, who plan to use the extra month to increase vaccination rates and to have most residents at least partially vaccinated by the June 15th mask mandate end.
“We’ll use the extra month to increase vaccination rates. So far 43% of residents 16 and over are fully vaccinated in Los Angeles County. That means more than half of our adult population remains vulnerable,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis on Monday.
However, many citizens and businesses have protested keeping the date in place, noting that California’s low COVID-19 transmission risk and need for economic recovery point to a need for a mask mandate end to happen sooner.
“It’s ridiculous, because even though many national chains have said that they won’t require masks now, California is stubbornly holding everyone back,” explained Raichi Lewis, an assistant manager at a retailer in California that announced the lifting of the mask mandate last week, to the Globe. “It may not seem like such a big deal, but it really is. The state is literally the only thing holding us back from a full reopening right now. Having a store without masks, or at least the number going down, do you have any idea what that would do for the morale of the shoppers and the employees? It would be a strong signal of normalcy. That everything is coming back.”
“But they’re keeping us back again for another month. I know they are saying this is for safety, but we are already safe. Look at our [COVID-19] rates. We just want the next step.”
More mask mandate updates are expected later this month from the CHHS.
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