One of California's top public health officials confirmed Wednesday that the state will align with federal face masking guidance when the state's tiered reopening system is lifted next Tuesday.
The masking guidance as outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would enable fully vaccinated residents to forego wearing a mask in most indoor and outdoor situations unless required by an individual business or local health department.
The updated guidance will have exceptions for a handful of situations, like riding public transit or being in a school, a child care setting, a health care setting or a nursing home.
"Fully vaccinated people can resume everyday activities without wearing a mask, except in a few limited settings that are required by federal and state rules," state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Wednesday during a briefing on the updated guidance.
Unvaccinated residents will still be required to wear a mask or face covering when in an indoor public setting, Ghaly said, or when attending large outdoor events like concerts or sports.
State officials have previously stated their intent to lift most masking requirements when the state lifts its reopening tier system, formally known as the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, on Tuesday.
While the CDC issued its updated masking guidance on May 13, Ghaly and other state officials said they would hold off on implementing the guidance until June 15 to determine how to enforce the new rules.
On Wednesday, Ghaly said that enforcement mechanism will be, more or less, an honor system between businesses and their customers, if a business does not require customers to confirm their vaccination status or require all customers to wear a mask regardless of their status.
"Business owners will need to post requirements that people who are unvaccinated are still required to wear masks," he said. "But if somebody comes into their business or their operation without a mask, it should be considered a self-attestation for someone being vaccinated."
The state will also not require most businesses to check someone's vaccination status before they are allowed inside without a mask.
That latitude will not be afforded to indoor events with 5,000 or more attendees, which will be required through at least Oct. 1 to confirm that attendees are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to the event.
Ghaly stayed mum on how the state aligning with the CDC's masking guidance could or should affect the current workplace guidance by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), whose Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, an independent commission, decides on workplace safety rules. In light of the state's direction on face coverings, the board held a special meeting on Wednesday evening and unanimously rescinded guidelines it had just adopted on June 3, which required fully vaccinated workers to wear a mask at all times if they are in a room with someone who is unvaccinated.
The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board will meet again on June 17 to consider updated rules on masking that better align with the California Department of Public Health and CDC.
Ghaly during his briefing emphasized that the three COVID-19 vaccines available are remarkably effective at preventing serious illness and death related to the virus.
"Making sure that everybody who has decision-making capacity in COVID has those data and details is a No. 1 priority of ours so that we can make thoughtful and important guidelines," he said.
The state's lifting of the tier system and modification of masking requirements will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.