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California Will Keep Mask Rules In Place Until June 15

Visitors wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic at the Universal City Walk Friday, May 14, 2021, in Universal City, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez
AP Photo
Visitors wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic at the Universal City Walk Friday, May 14, 2021, in Universal City, Calif.

California will keep its existing mask requirements in place for another month, state health officials announced Monday.

As other states loosen or discard mask rules in the wake of new federal guidance that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear face coverings, the Golden State will stay its course until June 15, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a media call.

“This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change” while it continues to vaccinate as many people as possible, he said.

The delay is “in no way saying the science or the direction by the CDC is wrong or there's a challenge to it,” Ghaly said. “It’s really just giving ourselves across the state some additional time to have it implemented with a high degree of integrity with a continued focus on protecting the public’s health.”

More than 15.5 million Californians have been fully vaccinated, roughly half of those eligible for the shot, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Another 4.7 million are partially vaccinated.

The state is on track to drop its color-tier system and many of the pandemic restrictions that come with it on June 15, Ghaly said.

California currently requires people to wear masks in most indoor settings — though fully vaccinated people can go maskless outdoors except at crowded events like concerts or sporting events.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that fully vaccinated adults could go without masks indoors and outdoors in most situations. Mask requirements remain in place in certain settings, such as public transportation and health care.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the change was based on real-world studies on the effectiveness of vaccines combined with declining COVID-19 case rates in the United States. Still, Walendsky said the CDC was deferring to local jurisdictions to set mask policies.

"So, for example, we do suggest that local jurisdictions look at their own vaccination rates, look at their own case rate in their area, because the country is not uniform with regard to both cases and vaccine scale-up, and to make some of those policies locally," Walensky told PBS Newshour last week.

Many states that still required masks before the latest CDC guidance have already updated their rules to align with the new recommendations. Last week Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said the state would align its guidelines with the CDC, as did the governors of Colorado, Oregon and Washington — the other states in the Western States Compact that have been coordinating COVID-19 response with California throughout the pandemic.

A number of businesses, including Walmart, have said they will stop requiring masks for customers in its stores, except in states or cities that still have mask rules in place.

Nicole covers politics and government for CapRadio. Before moving to California, she won several awards, including a regional Edward R. Murrow Award, for her political reporting in her hometown of Salt Lake City. Besides public radio, Nicole is passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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