California Will Keep Its Mask Guidelines in Place Until June 15

At least one L.A. County official urged the state to align with the CDC’s relaxed guidance, but the nation’s largest nurses’ union called for caution

UPDATE: MONDAY, MAY 17, 2 P.M. — The California Department of Public Health announced on Monday that California will hold off on aligning with the CDC’s updated masking guidelines until June 15, the day the state’s economy is set to fully reopen.

In a statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said, “On June 15, California plans to implement the CDC’s guidelines around masking to allow fully vaccinated Californians to go without a mask in most indoor settings. This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change while we continue our relentless focus on delivering vaccines, particularly in underserved communities.”

California’s current masking guidelines, which were updated on May 3, dictate that masks or no longer required outdoors (except at crowded events and for unvaccinated people when distancing can’t be maintained) or for gatherings of vaccinated people in a home setting.

MONDAY, MAY 17, 8 A.M. — Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unexpectedly released new guidance on masks, telling fully vaccinated people they can forgo face coverings in most indoor and outdoor settings. While more than half of Californian residents have gotten at least once dose, not everyone’s ready for the state’s mask mandate to be chunked.

In a phone call with the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend, Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, president of the California Nurses Association, called the new CDC guidance “a big blow to the safety and welfare of the nurses, front line workers, as well as the patients”; she said the CNA has been in contact with state legislators “seeking their support on not lifting the mask mandate based on science.”

“We have to understand that the pandemic is not over,” Triunfo-Cortez added. “There continues to be high rates of infection and people continue to die, even nurses.”

So far it’s unclear how California will proceed. Just days before the CDC made its announcement, Governor Gavin Newsom had said the state’s mask mandate would likely be in place until June 15, the target date for the state to fully reopen. On Sunday, the California Department of Public Health said it was “reviewing CDC guidance” and didn’t anticipate weighing in until that review was complete.

In L.A. County, public health director Barbara Ferrer said last week that masks would continue to be required in workplaces, but Republican County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has issued a letter to Governor Newsom asking him to ease the state’s guidelines to align with CDC recommendations.

“Los Angeles County has made tremendous progress vaccinating residents, including those in our hard-hit communities,” Barger said over the weekend. “Furthermore, our positivity rate is less than 1% and our case rate remains low.”

Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a public health professor at University of California San Francisco, is less eager for hasty changes to California’s current mandate. “I’m enthusiastic about the guidelines—they’re fantastic and sound. The problem is, we have huge gaps in who’s vaccinated,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday. “We should probably wait a few more weeks until as many people as possible can get vaccinated.”

RELATED: The CDC Says Fully Vaxxed People Can Ditch Their Masks—but Are They Ready?

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