With declining Covid numbers across the West, California, Oregon and Washington announced today that they are moving together to update their masking guidance. After 11:59 p.m. on March 11, all three states will adopt new indoor mask policies and move from mask requirements to mask recommendations in schools.
In California, starting March 1, masks will no longer be required for unvaccinated individuals indoors, but will be strongly recommended for all individuals in most such settings. After March 11, schools and child care facilities will no longer need to wear masks, but face coverings will be strongly recommended. Masks will still be required for everyone in high-transmission settings like public transit, emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
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State policies do not change federal requirements, which still include masks on public transit. Local health departments — most notably in Los Angeles — can and have been more restrictive. It is unclear at this moment was local authorities’ stances may be, but Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week that she expected to have more clarity by this Friday.
The Western States’ announcement follows the news last week that CDC was relaxing its mask requirements in most indoor spaces. The new guidance means that it’s now considered ok for most Americans to go maskless indoors in public, including those who are not vaccinated.
The announced recommendations indicate that Americans only need mask up indoors when their region’s healthcare system is in danger of being overwhelmed. Only 37% of the U.S. currently falls into that category, according to the CDC’s newly-altered thresholds indicating outbreak severity.
Statement from California Governor Gavin Newsom:
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. 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.
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