SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Even though some in the Golden State are ready to rip off their face-coverings now, fully vaccinated Californians must wait until June 15 before going mask-free indoors, state health officials announced on Monday.
While vaccinated people don't have to wear masks outdoors now in California, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly clarified that masks will be required in indoor settings "regardless of vaccination status" until June 15.
The caveat to be mask-free is that people have to be fully vaccinated. June 15 is the same day that California is slated to reopen with little-to-no COVID restrictions.
The announcement means that California is deciding not to immediately implement looser guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Waiting about a month gives more Californians the opportunity to get vaccinated, Ghaly said at a phone news conference, and the more people who are vaccinated, the less of an opportunity there is to spread the deadly disease. At this point, roughly 40% of the state is now fully vaccinated.
"Now that they see there will be less masking out in their communities, they see this is the week to be vaccinated," Ghaly said.
Businesses are expected to adhere to the state’s guidelines, Ghaly said. That four-week delay will help businesses prepare for the transition to fewer restrictions, he said.
He noted that the CDC has said that it will keep the mask requirement in place for students for the rest of the calendar year, and said California will do the same.
As for what to do about ensuring that people are indeed vaccinated and won't lie about their status: Ghaly said that's why he is giving authorities a chance to figure that out.
Local health jurisdictions can always put into place stricter rules.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
"If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask," Ghaly said, summarizing the new guidance and encouraging more Americans to roll up their sleeves. "Get vaccinated — or wear a mask until you do."
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.
Many other states lifted their mask requirements last week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s safe for fully vaccinated people to skip face coverings and social distancing in most situations.
The nation appears divided over who wants to shed the masks, and who wants to keep them on.
Many are ready to put aside the sadness, isolation and wariness of the pandemic. Ditching face masks — even ones bedazzled with sequins or sports team logos — is a visible, liberating way to move ahead. Yet others are still worried about new virus variants and the off-chance they might contract the virus and pass it along to others, though the risks of both are greatly reduced for those who are fully vaccinated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.