California public health officials Wednesday aligned with new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommended that everyone wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
The announcement by the California Department of Public Health is only a recommendation, not a mandate.
“The Delta variant has caused a sharp increase in hospitalizations and case rates across the state,” Dr. Tomas J. Aragon, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement. “We are recommending masking in indoor public places to slow the spread while we continue efforts to get more Californians vaccinated.”
Los Angeles County tightened its public-health order earlier this month, requiring everyone wear masks in indoor public settings whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. The move came in response to rising COVID infection numbers blamed on the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Mask-wearing is only required indoors in other Southern California counties for non-vaccinated people, but enforcement is primarily limited to a self-attestation honor system.
The CDC changed its mask-wearing guidance on Tuesday, recommending face coverings for everyone indoors in areas with “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission. That includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.
Thus far, no other Southern California county has followed Los Angeles’ lead in requiring masks indoors.
According to state health officials, more than 90% of California’s population is in areas with “high” or “substantial” transmission of COVID- 19.