California easing COVID-19 mask recommendations

In a fresh sign of improving coronavirus conditions, California will ease its mask-wearing recommendations for the first time in seven months.

The state is largely rescinding its strong recommendation that everyone — regardless of vaccination status — should mask themselves in indoor public spaces and businesses. This general guideline has been in effect since mid-February.

Instead, California will recommend wearing a universal mask only when a county’s COVID-19 community level — which indicates the rate of new hospitalizations with coronavirus positives — is high.

Changes scheduled to go into effect Friday include ending state-mandated mask requirements in jails and jails, homeless shelters, and emergency and cooling centers in counties with a low level of COVID-19 community levels, as defined by the US Centers for Disease control and prevention.

Ranking in that category, which 35 of California’s 58 counties were in last week, shows the pandemic isn’t having a major impact on hospitals. The CDC updates its community-level ratings weekly and ranks the counties as low, medium, or high.

Facilities can make their own decisions about mask use, but should an outbreak occur, the state would again require masking in facilities such as jails and jails, shelters and cold centers, even when local COVID-19 community levels are low . according to the state health regulations. A county’s presence at medium or high COVID-19 community level would result in a mask order in these settings.

Individual counties could also adhere to stricter rules.

Masks remain required in healthcare, long-term and elderly care facilities under a state health regulation. And the state requires businesses and venues, including K-12 schools, to “allow any person to wear a mask if they choose to.”

The changes “give Californians the information they should consider when deciding when to wear a mask, including community spread rates and personal risk,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s director of public health and health officer, in a statement.

They also reflect the Golden State’s continued improvement in pandemic metrics. In the seven days ending Sept. 13, the latest available period, California recorded an average of about 5,900 cases per day — about a quarter of the peak of this summer’s wave.

The number of coronavirus-positive hospital admissions is also declining across the country. At the peak of summer on July 26, the number of hospitalized coronavirus-positive patients was 4,843. On Monday it was 2,313. Still, that number is above the spring low of 949.

Even with the changes, the California Department of Health and Human Services will say that wearing masks in indoor public places is highly recommended for those at lower risk of serious illness and those at higher risk when levels of the COVID-19 community are high.

According to the CDC, only three California counties — Merced, Madera and Kings, all in the Central Valley — remain at the high level of the COVID-19 community. With fewer than 600,000 residents, they make up less than 2% of the state’s population.

If the COVID-19 community level is moderate, those at lower risk of serious illness are advised to consider wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, while wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces is recommended for those at higher risk.

Approximately 8.7 million Californians, 22% of the state’s population, live in the 20 counties with moderate COVID-19 community levels — San Bernardino, Sacramento, Fresno, Kern, Stanislaus, Sonoma, Tulare, Placer, Marin, Yolo, El Dorado, Imperial, Shasta, Humboldt, Mendocino, Tuolumne, Inyo, Mariposa, Trinity and Modoc.

When COVID-19 community levels are low, state health officials say people at lower risk of serious illness may consider wearing a mask based on personal preference based on their personal level of risk. Those at higher risk are advised to consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor public spaces.

More than three-quarters of Californians live in the 35 counties with low COVID-19 community levels. These include Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, as well as seven of the nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The use of masks is still recommended if you have been exposed to the coronavirus as a “close contact” of an infected person. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, goes a step further by requiring employees exposed to the coronavirus to wear a mask at work for 10 days after their last exposure.

Exposure to the coronavirus is defined as sharing the same indoor airspace for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

Infected people are still being asked to stay home at least five days after their first symptoms or the date of their first positive test if they don’t have symptoms. They can leave isolation as early as day six if they test negative on a rapid test, and can generally exit isolation at the beginning of day eleven without requiring a negative test result.

However, the state Department of Health recommends people who leave isolation between days six and ten wear a well-fitting mask when they are with others, especially indoors. Cal/OSHA goes a step further by requiring recently infected employees to wear a mask at work until the end of the 10th day after they develop symptoms or their first positive test result. California easing COVID-19 mask recommendations

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