People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can largely stop wearing a mask in most indoor and outdoor situations, according to revised guidance released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The announcement, however, does not immediately reverse existing mask- wearing requirements in Los Angeles County or in California as a whole. L.A. County requirements allow fully vaccinated residents to shed masks while indoors with other fully vaccinated people. But mask mandates remain in place for everyone working at or patronizing businesses — such as grocery stores or retail shops.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said local mask requirements won’t be changing until at least late next week, when state Occupational Health and Safety regulators meet to consider possible changes to worksite masking guidelines.
Ferrer’s comments echo those being heard across the country, as health officials weigh the continued protection of workers who may not be vaccinated — and the thorny question of how business owners and employers can verify who has actually been vaccinated.
The revised CDC guidance was announced in response to repeated studies showing the effectiveness of the vaccines, offering people who have been inoculated a great deal of protection against infection or severe illness if they are infected.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
The new CDC guidance does not completely drop mask recommendations for vaccinated people. Face coverings are still recommended in some settings — such as aboard planes and buses or in crowded settings such as hospitals.
Walensky also said people who are vaccinated but are “immune compromised” should “talk to your doctor before giving up your mask.”
“This is an exciting and powerful moment,” Walensky said of the announcement, while also urging more people to get vaccinated.
“The science is also very clear about unvaccinated people: you remain at risk of mild or severe illness, of death, or of spreading the disease,” she said. “You should still mask, and you should get vaccinated right away.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated this week that the state will likely ease its mask mandate on June 15, when all other COVID restrictions on businesses and gatherings are set to be eliminated. Newsom told Fox11 the state will continue to make recommendations for mask-wearing in select circumstances. But he said mask-wearing will likely only be required in large-scale indoor gatherings.
“Only in those settings that are indoor,” he told Fox11. “Only in those massively large settings, where people — from around the world, not just around the country — are convening, and where people are mixing in real dense spaces.
“Otherwise, we’ll make guidance, recommendations, but no mandates and no restrictions,” he said.
Ferrer said no changes will be immediately made to local mask wearing requirements. She said Cal-OSHA regulators are set to meet May 20 to discuss possible adjustments to workplace masking requirements, and the county will align with any changes they approve. But until then, mask will remain mandated for everyone patronizing businesses or worksites.
“I know people are going to be impatient now and they’re going to say, `No, time to get on this. Time to just eliminate all these requirements around masking,”‘ Ferrer said. “But that wasn’t the intent, I don’t think, of the CDC. I think CDC wrote in multiple places that people really do need to adhere to worker protections and state and local directives. It’s important for us to remember that we do need to protect workers, particularly those workers that are in essential work environments.”