SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is likely to have “guidelines and mandates" for wearing masks indoors after the state fully reopens next month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, appearing to walk back comments from the previous day that indicated masks would be gone in nearly all situations.
California's mask requirements took effect in June 2020. Last month, Newsom announced he would lift most restrictions on business and activities on June 15 if the state’s coronavirus cases remained low but said masks orders would stay in effect.
Then, in an interview Tuesday, he said California once the state fully reopens it will look “a lot like the world we entered into before the pandemic.”
“We're not wearing face coverings. We're not restricted in any way, shape or form from doing the old things that we used to do, save for huge, large-scale indoor convention events like that, where we use our common sense,” Newsom said in an interview with Fox 11 in Los Angeles, adding there will be “no mandates” and “no restrictions on businesses large and small.”
A day later, while touting billions more for K-12 education in Monterey, he altered his words, saying the state “will still have likely some mask guidelines and mandates" for indoor activities.
“But we hope sooner than later, that those will be lifted as well,” he said. “The bottom line is, we’ll go back to most broad strokes semblance of normalcy, if we continue down this path.”
California now requires people to wear a mask when gathering indoors with people who are not vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people can meet indoors without wearing a mask. They also don't have to wear a mask outdoors, except when attending large gatherings such as sporting events, festivals and concerts.
California has a host of other rules for businesses and other public places. Those rules vary by county, with the more severe restrictions imposed on places where the virus is most widespread.
Newsom has been under pressure to relax coronavirus restrictions as the number of new cases decline. He will likely face a recall election later this year, an effort fueled mostly by anger over his handling of the pandemic.
Newsom's comments on Tuesday and his remarks on Wednesday seemed to conflict with what the state has planned for mask mandates. Just two months ago, Newsom criticized Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbot for lifting that state's mask mandate, calling it “ absolutely reckless.”
Meanwhile, a state board that sets rules for workplaces is considering changing its mask rules later this month. Those proposed rules would not require people to wear masks indoors if all workers are fully vaccinated and no one has coronavirus symptoms, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Asked to clarify Newsom's comments, Ali Bay, spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health, said the state will “continue to update face coverings guidance as appropriate, with the goal of continuing to loosen restrictions as more people get vaccinated.” She urged Californians to continue to follow the state's current mask guidelines.
The rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in California is just 1.1%, the lowest in the nation. More than 14.6 million people are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and another 5.1 million are partially vaccinated.
Still, some public health experts say it's smart to wear masks in public places.
“I can’t imagine completely abandoning all masking," said Dr. Brad Pollock, associate dean for public health sciences at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. “If we have no COVID left in the community, that’s one thing. But I don’t think that's going to happen.”