California officials announced that face masks will no longer be required indoors starting Tuesday, as the state shifts to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus.
Masks will be “strongly recommended” for unvaccinated people in most indoor settings like shops, gyms, bars and movie theaters, but they will no longer be mandated by the state after Tuesday, officials said.
And next week, after March 11, masks will also not be required at California’s schools and child care centers — though officials continue to strongly recommend masking in classrooms.
Masks will still be mandated for everyone in high transmission areas, including on public transit, emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
While the state is loosening its masking requirements, local jurisdictions can still continue to require masks indoors.
Currently in Los Angeles County, businesses can only shed the indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people.
“California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we’ve learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high. We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward.”
The move comes after California ended the indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people on Feb. 16, mandating face coverings only for unvaccinated people in indoor public settings.
That marked the end of a two-month period of more stringent masking rules brought on by an omicron-fueled coronavirus surge that sent infection numbers skyrocketing statewide.
Now, with case numbers quickly declining, the state is relaxing its masking rules even further to include those who haven’t been vaccinated.
California is easing up on the face mask requirements as it moves to an “endemic” approach that emphasizes prevention and quick reaction to outbreaks over mask mandates and closures.
Newsom announced the shift two weeks ago, saying the state is moving past the crisis stage and into a phase where Californians will have to live with the virus.
California became the first state to formally offer such a detailed plan for a future when COVID-19 becomes manageable as the population’s immunity builds.
This new stage depends on the state identifying surges or variants faster, fighting misinformation, adding more health care workers and stockpiling tests.
The Newsom administration dubbed the plan SMARTER to highlight its key elements: Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx.
Two other western states, Oregon and Washington, will also join California in updating their masking guidance Tuesday.