June 12, 2021

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California won’t lift its mask mandate until June 15 politico.com – POLITICO

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Gavin Newsom wearing a mask.

California first issued its mask requirements nearly a year ago — on June 18. | AP Photo/Hector Amezcua, Pool

OAKLAND — California will not lift its Covid-19 mask mandate to align with new federal recommendations until after June 15, the target date for the state to fully reopen businesses, state health officials said Monday.

“This four-week week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change while we continue the relentless focus on delivering vaccines,” Health and Human Service Secretary Mark Ghaly said.

This announcement makes California, along with New Jersey and Hawaii, one of the final holdouts to revise its mask policy after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people can go without masks in most situations.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said vaccinated New Yorkers will no longer be required to wear masks or face coverings in most settings beginning Wednesday. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy refused on Monday to lift his state’s indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents, saying he wants to avoid any possibility of an increase in cases.

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference Friday said the state was reviewing its mask policies but underscored that questions remain about enforcement, guidance for schools and what happens if businesses decide to continue requiring masks. “There’s a whole host of complexities that we all have to work through,” he said.

California first issued its mask requirements nearly a year ago — on June 18. Under the most recent update, the state allowed fully vaccinated people to be maskless outdoors except in crowded events such as concerts, festivals and sporting events, and to socialize indoors without masks with other fully vaccinated people.

Ghaly said California wasn’t challenging the federal decision by waiting a month to adjust its own rules. “It’s really just giving ourselves across the state some additional time to have it implemented with a high degree of integrity, with a continued focus on protecting the public,” he said.

Some businesses, such as Trader Joe’s, Costco and Walmart, already moved to lift restrictions for vaccinated customers nationwide, but that won’t be allowed in California. “We expect businesses in California to adhere to where the state is and move to implement these standards, or prepare for them, on June 15 as opposed to now,” Ghaly said.

The state is also working with employers and businesses to figure out how to best determine who is vaccinated for masking purposes, Ghaly said.

Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the UC San Francisco, agreed with California’s decision to delay the change. “Good call — simply too much virus & too many unvaxxed folks who won’t [wear] masks for no-mask indoor spaces to be safe now,” he said on Twitter.

But the decision also drew criticism. “This is like saying, ‘We are going to follow the science, but we are going to wait until June 15 to do so,’” Assemblymember Chad Mayes (I-Rancho Mirage) wrote on Twitter.

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox chided Newsom for “going into hiding when he has something unpopular to announce” and called on the governor to “drop the mask mandate now.”

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