June 24, 2021

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California relaxes outdoor mask rules for fully vaccinated people, aligns with CDC – SF Gate

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California said Tuesday it is aligning the state guidance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidelines that relax the rules for people who have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series.

The CDC announced Tuesday morning that fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces outdoors unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. Those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some situations, too.

“We have reviewed and support the CDC’s new masking recommendations and are working quickly to align California’s guidance with these common sense updates,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, Director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “While more than 50% of Californians 16+ are partially or fully vaccinated, many others are still not vaccinated, and the threat of variants remains. We continue to urge all eligible Californians to get vaccinated to help us move past this pandemic.”

California has been hailed in recent days for having the lowest positivity rate in the country as the number of new cases reported continues to drop. The state has administered more than 28 million COVID shots and 37% of eligible people are fully vaccinated. 

While California has entered a bright spot in the pandemic, the state continued to urge caution.

“While more than half of Californians 16 and older are partially or fully vaccinated, many others are still not vaccinated, and the threat of variants remains,” the state said. “We need to remain vigilant and continue public health prevention measures – like wearing masks when appropriate and getting vaccinated – but the light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”

The new guidance represents another carefully calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in U.S.

For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of one another. California Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a mask mandate in June. 

The CDC, which has been cautious in its guidance during the crisis, essentially endorsed what many Americans have already been doing over the past several weeks. The CDC says that fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They can also go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people.

But from there, the CDC has differing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

Unvaccinated people — defined by the CDC as those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson formula — should wear masks at outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people. They also should keep using masks at outdoor restaurants.

Fully vaccinated people do not need to cover up in those situations, the CDC says, but everyone should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events.

And the agency continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, museums and movie theaters, saying that is still the safer course even for vaccinated people.

The advice to the unvaccinated applies to adults and children alike, according to the CDC. None of the COVID-19 vaccines in use in the U.S. are authorized for children under 16.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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