California loosening mask recommendations as COVID levels remain low

Mask requirements are easing in California. As of Friday, the state is no longer recommending everyone mask up indoors.

For months, California's public health leaders have been recommending masking inside public settings -- whether you’re vaccinated or not. But that's changing now.

"We’re kind of at the lowest point we’ve been in the history of the pandemic right now, not only in numbers of cases, but numbers of hospitalizations and the numbers of people dying,"  UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said.

Chin-Hong said that means in Californians can take off our masks, for now.

The state is recommending universal masking only in counties with a high COVID community level, that's a measurement looking at the amount of virus in an area and its hospital capacity.

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website

The good news is Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows no California counties are currently categorized as high. 

Most of California and all Bay Area counties are in the low category.

"The big picture is everyone is moving in the right direction, so even though there may be a few yellows in the state, I think the trajectory is good right now where we’ll expect the whole state to be green very soon," said Chin-Hong. 

This means the state is also no longer requiring masking in jails and prisons, homeless shelters, and emergency and cooling shelters in those low community level areas. But an outbreak could change that. 

"People should definitely feel good. We haven’t arrived here by chance, we’ve done a lot of work to get to this point," said Chin-Hong.

In the Bay Area, BART’s mask requirement is set to expire next weekend on Oct. 1. 

Riders told KTVU they think it should be the individual's responsibility to wear a mask, and not mandated.

"I’m super excited for people to be able to make the decision for themselves, you know, having the freedom to protect yourself or breathe freely. I mean it should be people’s choice I think," said Sam Sky.

Some riders believe it's common sense to know how to take care of yourself and when to mask up still. But they're ready to get back to normal.

"I will (wear a mask) on certain occasions when it seems appropriate. I always have one. Sometimes I will put it on if I see a crowd of people and a questionable situation, yea. But if not, I don’t really think it’s necessary," said Catherine Prather.

Chin-Hong said don't throw away your masks just yet. Things could change, especially in the winter.

The BART board even approved a new resolution Thursday night to make it clear that if the CDC, TSA, state or counties they serve go back to masks, they could too. 

They could also reinstate the mandate if any U.S. metropolitan areas see a surge in COVID cases.