[COLUMN] California’s updated mask guidance

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Questions & Answers with Dr. Marc Concepcion, family physician

California has now changed its mask requirements to match CDC’s guidelines, and this is what it means for everyone.

•Vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most circumstances.
•Unvaccinated people should wear masks in indoor, public settings.
•Everyone should wear masks in public transit, hospitals, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, indoor in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings.

Q: If many people are vaccinated, why do we sometimes still need to wear face coverings?

A: The risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection will remain until we reach community immunity from vaccinations, especially in communities heavily impacted by COVID-19.

In addition, there continue to be higher-risk settings identified by the CDC where masks are required to prevent transmission to those with higher risk of infection (e.g., unvaccinated or immunocompromised persons), to persons with prolonged, cumulative exposures, or to persons whose vaccination status is unknown.

The author, Dr. Marc Concepcion

Q: When must unvaccinated people wear masks?

A: In addition to the places listed above where everyone must still wear face coverings, masks are required for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (for example: live performances, indoor malls, movie theaters, places of worship, indoor mega events, and indoor museums).

For additional information, see CDC Recommendations for Safer Activities.

Q: Who is exempt from wearing a mask?

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

• Persons younger than two years old because of the risk of suffocation.
• Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask.
• 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.

Q: Are children 2 – 11 years required to wear masks indoors in K-12 schools and other youth settings?

A: Yes, since they are currently ineligible for vaccines and are therefore “unvaccinated.” This requirement may change based on forthcoming CDC guidance addressing schools and youth.

Q: Will unvaccinated children and youth be required or recommended to wear a mask during recess outdoors if they cannot maintain physical distancing?

A: In general, unvaccinated children and youth do not need to wear a mask outdoors, even if they cannot maintain physical distancing. However, per CDC recommendations, in areas of substantial to high transmission, people who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact (including high-risk contact sports) with other people who are not fully vaccinated.

Q: How does a business verify someone is vaccinated?

A: In settings where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals, businesses, venue operators or hosts may choose to:

• Provide information to all customers, guests and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.
• Require proof of vaccination.
• Require all patrons to wear masks.

Businesses may deem a customer, guest or attendee to have self-attested to being vaccinated, or to have met an approved masking exemptions, if the business has prominently displayed signage prior to entry explaining the requirements for unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask and the individual enters the business premises without wearing a mask.

Q: Can a business require everyone to wear a mask, even those that are already vaccinated?

A: Yes, businesses have the option of requiring all patrons to wear a mask while in their facility or place of business, instead of verifying the vaccination status of each patron.
To schedule an appointment for vaccination, please visit myturn.ca.gov or call COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255.

You can also call your family doctor, local community health clinic or public health office for more information.


Dr. Marc Concepcion studied medicine at Western University of Health Sciences, completing his residency at UC Davis Medical Center. He has now been a provider for over 20 years as a family physician in Sacramento, emphasizing preventive medicine, nutrition and holistic health.

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