LOS ANGELES - As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased their mask-wearing guidance.
On Thursday they announced that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most indoor and outdoor settings.
The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
However, even with the CDC’s updated guidance, individual businesses, states, and counties have the authority to set their own mandates should they choose to do so.
Several major retail chains, including Target, Home Depot and grocer Kroger Co., announced that they would keep mask mandates in place for now.
But Trader Joe’s became one of the first major grocer to drop its mask policy for fully vaccinated customers, updating its website with a statement that encourages shoppers to follow guidance from health officials. This includes, "as appropriate, CDC guidelines that advise customers who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks while shopping."
Walmart also said Friday that customers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear a mask in its stores in light of the agency’s guidance.
But what about in California, can fully vaccinated people ditch the mask? As of Friday afternoon it’s still not clear whether California will adopt the CDC’s new guidelines.
California’s Department of Public Health said that the state is currently reviewing the new guidance on masking requirements. No decision has been made yet.
In an exclusive interview with FOX 11, Gov. Gavin Newsom told Elex Michaelson that the state's mask mandate could be rolled back as soon as June 15. During his interview Wednesday, the governor said the mask mandate would only be lifted for outdoor settings. His announcement was made prior to the CDC’s update guidance. But on Friday it was reported that the governor will make an announcement by late afternoon on when or how California will adopt the CDC's guidelines regarding masks.
"With over 33 million vaccines administered and one of the lowest case rates in the country, California continues to encourage all eligible Californians to get vaccinated as the state looks to fully reopen on June 15," a statement from the governor’s office read.
The state is on track to fully reopen its economy by mid-June, signaling an end to most pandemic restrictions. On Thursday, the state began allowing children 12 to 15 to receive the vaccine.
At least 60% of residents 16 and older are partially vaccinated in California. But the percentages of people vaccinated vary widely by county and across the country.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles County, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said no changes will be immediately made to local mask wearing requirements. She said Cal-OSHA regulators are set to meet May 20 to discuss possible adjustments to workplace masking requirements, and the county will align with any changes they approve.
"I know people are going to be impatient now and they're going to say, `No, time to get on this. Time to just eliminate all these requirements around masking,''' Ferrer said. "But that wasn't the intent, I don't think, of the CDC. I think CDC wrote in multiple places that people really do need to adhere to worker protections and state and local directives. It's important for us to remember that we do need to protect workers, particularly those workers that are in essential work environments.''
Ferrer's comments echo those being heard across the country, as health officials weigh the continued protection of workers who may not be vaccinated -- and the question of how business owners and employers can verify who has actually been vaccinated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report