UPDATED at 2 p.m.: On the same day his top health official told reporters that California-mandated capacity restrictions on businesses would be over on June 15, Governor Gavin Newsom confirmed that the state’s mask mandate will, for the most part, be gone, as well.
When asked on Tuesday by Fox News LA’s Elex Michaelson if there would be a mask mandate after June 15, the usually-loquacious Newsom said simply, “No.” He did go on to explain the rare circumstances where masks would still be needed
“Only in those massively large [indoor] settings where people from around the world are convening & people are mixing in real dense spaces. Otherwise…no mandates,” he told Michaelson.
NEWS: @GavinNewsom tells me CA's mask mandate will almost entirely go away on June 15th.
"Only in those massively large [indoor] settings where people from around the world are convening & people are mixing in real dense spaces. Otherwise…no mandates"
— Elex Michaelson (@Elex_Michaelson) May 12, 2021
On Wednesday, Newsom walked that back a bit saying, “For indoor activities we still will have, likely, some mask mandates. But the hope is those will be lifted sooner rather than later.”
The two statements are not necessarily contradictory, but the latter seems to be a little more broadly applicable.
State officials are hard at work revising the Covid-prevention mandates. New draft rules would eliminate physical distancing at workplaces starting in August under a proposed update to the state Covid-19 safety rules. Given Newsom’s recent statement, that timetable is likely to be moved up.
The proposal to eliminate social distancing is being drafted at the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health — Cal-OSHA — and says fully-vaccinated workers do not have to wear face coverings when they are outdoors and don’t have COVID symptoms.
The draft guidelines also say workers will also not have to wear masks or shields indoors if they and everyone around them are fully vaccinated and show no symptoms of the virus.
PREVIOUSLY on Tuesday: California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday that the state is on track to drop the longstanding tier restrictions that have limited capacity at businesses.
“On June 15, the color-coded tier system … will no longer be in place,” he said. More specifically, Ghaly added, “Certain things like capacity limits will no longer be in place in California cities.”
Ghaly’s boss, Gov. Gavin Newsom, promised in early April that the state would be getting rid of the tier system. “We’ll be opening up on June 15, this economy … business as usual,” he said at the time. But beyond those broad strokes, the governor and his HHS secretary have not been very specific about what the state would look like after June 15.
Newsom has hinted that his Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which contains the color-coded tier framework, would go away. Ghaly confirmed that on Tuesday. “We believe that — here in May — that we’re on track to meet that goal.”
The two main measures the state continues to look at are whether vaccine supply is sufficient for Californians ages 16 and older who wish to be inoculated and that hospitalization numbers are stable and low, and specifically, hospitalizations among fully vaccinated individuals are low.
The state looks good on both measures. California is awash in vaccine and the state’s numbers on Tuesday for cases, deaths, hospitalizations and test positivity rate in the state were the lowest they have been in more than a year.
If the state continues on track, capacity restrictions on movie theaters, concert venues and theme parks will be eliminated, though some may require attendees to show proof of vaccination.
From the state’s Beyond the Blueprint page:
All sectors listed in the current Blueprint Activities and Business Tiers Chart may return to usual operations in compliance with ETS/Cal OSHA and other statewide agency guidelines and standards with limited public health restrictions, such as masking, testing, and testing or vaccination verification requirements for large-scale higher-risk events.
The state’s mask mandate, however, will remain.
“We still see masking as a key protective feature,” Ghaly said in April, noting that there is “no timeline for ending the mask requirement.”
“It’s the most powerful non-pharmaceutical intervention we can have,” affirmed Newsom.