Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Information provided by California Department of Public Health


On Jan. 5, the California Department of Public Health extended the requirement for universal masking indoors statewide, which began Dec. 15,  to Feb. 15.

The Department of Health said the COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in preventing serious disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

“Unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected and spread the virus which is transmitted through the air and concentrates indoors,” the release said. “To ensure that we collectively protect the health and well-being of all Californians; keep schools open for in-person instruction; and allow California’s economy to remain open and thrive, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, until February 15, 2022.”

It added that requirements will be updated as the Department continues to assess conditions on an ongoing basis.

“This measure brings an added layer of mitigation as the Omicron variant increases in prevalence across California, the United States, and the world and spreads much more easily than the original COVID-19 virus and the Delta variant,” the release said.

It continued to say that over the last two weeks, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by more than sixfold and hospitalizations have doubled. It also stated that there continue to be areas in the state where vaccine coverage is low, putting individuals and communities at greater risk for COVID-19.

“Given the current hospital census, which is over capacity, the surge in cases and hospitalizations has materially impacted California’s health care delivery system within many regions of the state,” the release said. “Staffing levels are also increasingly impacted by COVID-19 transmission in many critical sectors.”

In workplaces, employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) or in some workplaces the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard and should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements.


Masking Requirements

Masks are required for all individuals in all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status from Dec.15, 2021 through Feb. 15, 2022. Surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95sm KF94s) with good fit are recommended.

See State Health Officer Order, issued on July 26, 2021, for a full list of high-risk congregate and other healthcare settings where surgical masks are required for unvaccinated workers, and recommendations for respirator use for unvaccinated workers in healthcare and long-term care facilities in situations or settings not covered by Cal OSHA ETS or ATD.

For additional information on types of masks, the most effective masks, and ensuring a well-fitted mask, individuals should refer to CDPH Get the Most out of Masking and see CDPH Masking Guidance Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.


Exemptions to masks requirements

The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

  • Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.