California will lift its requirement that students and staff wear masks indoors at schools at 11:59 p.m. March 11, making face coverings “strongly recommended” but not mandated, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday.
As of Tuesday, meanwhile, the state will also lift its requirement that unvaccinated people wear masks in most indoor settings, but masks will be “strongly recommended” for everyone indoors. Masks will also continue to be required for everyone at certain settings, including health-care facilities, transit centers, airports, aboard public transit, in correctional facilities and at homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
“California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we’ve learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic,” Newsom said in a statement. “Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high. We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward.”
Under the timeline announced Monday, the state will no longer mandate indoor mask-wearing on school campuses beginning March 12. Individual school districts or counties, however, will have the option of maintaining local requirements if they deem them necessary. Los Angeles County — which has taken a conservative approach throughout the pandemic in easing public health rules — will align with the state and will also lift the school masking requirement as of March 12.
“School districts may require masking at schools and during school activities and are encouraged to consult with teachers, staff, parents and students as they consider the appropriate safety protections for their school community, recognizing that many individuals may want to continue additional protections,” according to a statement from the county Department of Public Health.
The county has already lifted its outdoor mask-wearing rule at schools and child-care centers.
The governors of Oregon and Washington joined Newsom in Monday’s announcement, with those states also announcing a lifting of indoor mask requirements as of 11:59 p.m. March 11 — effectively ending the face-covering rules for the entire West Coast.
The announcement comes following Friday’s change in guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which adopted new standards that rely largely on COVID hospital numbers to govern whether masks should be worn. Those new standards — while resulted in mask recommendations being lifted for much of the country, still classified Los Angeles County as having “high” virus activity and urged that people continue to wear masks.
Despite California’s lifting of indoor mask-wearing requirements, Los Angeles County continues to require face coverings in most indoor settings. However, the county is allowing vaccinated people to remove their masks in indoor locations where all patrons are checked for either a COVID vaccination or a recent negative test.
According to the county Department of Public Health, the agency “will review any additional state guidance changes and provide an update on additional modifications to LA County safety measures during (Tuesday’s) Board of Supervisors meeting.”
There has been a growing push by two county supervisors for an end to the county’s mask-wearing mandate. Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn have both said the county should align fully with the state to avoid confusion and frustration among residents.
Barger on Monday hailed the state’s announcement easing masking rules, and again called for an end to the requirement.
“During tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting, our county’s public health director has committed to articulating a plan for how L.A. County will adjust its masking mandates and restrictions,” Barger said in a statement. “I look forward to that discussion and will continue to call for clarity and consistency with state and federal guidelines.
“It’s clear to me that, as the Omicron surge continues to decrease in L.A. County, we need to implement flexible COVID-19 infection control policies and move away from rigid approaches. The time for compulsory masking mandates has come to an end.”