After nearly two years of stringent indoor masking mandates, Los Angeles County on Friday began allowing businesses to shed the requirement for vaccinated customers.
L.A. County authorities modified the health officer order to allow businesses and venues verifying everyone’s vaccination status and checking COVID-19 test results to make masking optional for fully vaccinated people only.
Businesses have two options. They can either let both workers and customers unmask, or just customers.
The updated order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Here’s what to know:
Which locations are included?
The changes apply to many indoor locations, including retail shops, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, theaters, family entertainment centers, offices and warehouses.
But while L.A. County is allowing businesses to verify vaccine status to let people unmask, the change is voluntary and certain venues can still choose to require face masks regardless.
What do businesses have to do to drop the requirement?
To allow both fully vaccinated staff and customers aged 5 and older to unmask indoors, the operator has to check that everyone coming into the location is either:
- Fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or
- Has a recent negative coronavirus test result (taken within two days of entry if it’s a PCR test or one day if it’s antigen.)
If the venue can make sure 100% of people coming in or working there are either fully vaccinated or negative for COVID-19, they can let only those who are vaccinated unmask.
But they’ll have to also make sure that those who didn’t have proof of vaccination stay wearing a mask when not eating or drinking.
The venue won’t have to check vaccine or testing status for people just coming in to use the restroom or pick up an order. Verification is also not required if the customers are going to the outdoor area of the venue.
What if a customer is not vaccinated?
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people must continue wearing masks in all indoor public settings.
That’s even if they were let into the business with a negative COVID-19 test result.
What about workers?
If a business wants to allow both customers and employees to remove their masks, they need to be checking that workers are also either fully vaccinated or getting tested for coronavirus every three days. If they check this, only the vaccinated employees can unmask.
If a business is only letting customers unmask, employees don’t need to get tested or show their vaccine proof. In this scenario, the employees have to keep wearing their masks.
Where are masks still required?
Masks are still required for everyone aged 2 and older — regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status — in the following settings:
- On public transit like airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares
- At transportation hubs like airports, bus terminals, marinas, train stations, seaports, subway stations
- Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings
- Health care settings and long term care facilities
- State and local correctional facilities and detention centers
- Homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers
When can unvaccinated people shed their masks?
Masks will no longer be required at most indoor settings for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — when the county hits the CDC’s “moderate” transmission level for seven consecutive days.
That’s expected to happen soon.
L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county is “a short bit away” from completely lifting indoor masking requirements across the county, without the need for vaccine and testing verifications.
Ferrer said that since that change can come soon as case numbers decline rapidly, the businesses that don’t already have systems in place for verifying vaccinations or negative tests may want to just continue requiring masks indoors until the county fully lifts the requirements.
What counts as proof of vaccination or a negative test result?
According to L.A. County’s health department, the following are acceptable forms of vaccine proof:
- The white CDC COVID-19 vaccination record card
- A photo of the vaccine card on a phone or a photocopy of it
- Documentation of vaccination from a health care provider
- A California Immunization Registry (CAIR2) vaccination record
- A digital vaccination record issued by California Department of Public Health
- A digital vaccination record from an approved company like Healthvana, Carbon Health, CommonPass, CLEAR Health Pass or VaxYes.
The venue checking vaccine status will also need to check the person’s photo identification.
As for customer showing test results, these are the requirements:
- It has to be taken within 2 days of entry if its a PCR test or 1 day if it’s an antigen test
- Can be a printed test result or an email or text message displayed on a phone
- The test result information needs to include the person’s name, date of test, type of test performed and negative test result
- Over the counter self-test kits cannot be used as proof
Onsite workers who are not fully vaccinated may submit a negative COVID-19 viral test result every 3 days if the business requires it to let their vaccinated coworkers unmask.