Who can stop wearing masks, and where: California's COVID reopening rules explained

·2 min read
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 7, 2021 - - Shoppers make their way through Santee Alley in downtown Los Angeles on June 7, 2021. California continues to help set the pace for U.S. COVID-19 recovery, now ranked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of just two states at the lowest level of coronavirus community transmission. In fact, according to the CDC's four-level color-coded system, California's transmission metrics were the lowest out of all 50 states as of Saturday. The CDC determines the level of community transmission based on the number of cases in the last seven days per population of 100,000, and the number of tests in the last seven days that yield a positive result. JUNE 07: Los Angeles Monday, June 7, 2021 Los Angeles, CA. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Shoppers make their way through Santee Alley in downtown Los Angeles on June 7. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

With California set to reopen its economy fully on June 15, wearing a mask will become optional in many public settings.

After weeks of discussions, officials on Wednesday offered the clearest outline yet of what is to come.

Here is what you need to know:

General rules

Californians who are two weeks removed from their last vaccine dose will be allowed to go mask-free in nearly all settings, with some exceptions that include transit hubs or public transportation; in healthcare settings and long-term care facilities; indoors at K-12 schools, childcare facilities or other youth settings; in homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers; and in correctional facilities and detention centers.

The unvaccinated

Unvaccinated individuals, on the other hand, will still be required to mask up in public indoor settings — including restaurants when not eating or drinking, retail stores and movie theaters.

The honor system

The duty of determining who is vaccinated and who is not will fall to individual business or venue owners. Officials said operators can either allow customers to self-attest that they’re vaccinated and therefore can enter without wearing a mask, implement some kind of vaccine verification system or require all patrons to wear a mask.

The mask option

The state’s guidance will make clear that no one — even someone who is fully vaccinated — can be prevented from willingly wearing a mask as a condition of entering a business or participating in an activity.

Workplaces

On Wednesday night, members of a California workplace safety board suggested they will move to allow fully vaccinated employees to stop wearing masks while on the job, putting proposed health rules in agreement with recommendations issued by federal and state health officials.

Eric Berg, deputy chief of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said the expectation is that the standards “will be consistent with” new mask rules issued by the California Department of Public Health for the general public, which are set to go into effect Tuesday. Those rules allow people who are fully vaccinated to not wear masks, with some exceptions, such as on public transit.

Labor concerns

The workplace rules Cal/OSHA is considering have been praised by business groups, but some labor organizations have concerns.

Labor representatives urged the board not to relax the mask standards, saying that the pandemic is not over and that protective measures besides vaccinations are still necessary to keep vulnerable workers from falling ill.

“Showing up for work so that you can earn a paycheck and support yourself and your family is not the same as deciding whether or not to go to a Sunday backyard barbecue. Most workers do not have a choice,” said Saskia Kim, representing the California Nurses Assn.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.