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California just relaxed its mask rules. Here’s what changes and what stays the same

People walk through Santa Anita Park.
Patrons walk through the 626 Night Market at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia last summer.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

On Wednesday, state health officials lifted a requirement that all residents age 2 and older wear masks in most indoor public spaces.

While the vast majority of California counties have said they will follow that guidance, some — Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Mendocino — are retaining local universal indoor mask mandates, likely until at least next month.

People can go without face coverings outdoors, including at K-12 schools, childcare facilities and in exterior areas of ‘mega’ events.

L.A. County

The revised guidance will allow people to go without face coverings outdoors at K-12 (including transitional kindergarten) schools and child care facilities, and will apply to exterior areas of “mega events,” such as those at the Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Mask rules at these settings were lifted at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Despite the change to outdoor masking, Angelenos — regardless of vaccination status — will still be required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces for at least the near term.

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The Los Angeles Unified School District also will keep its outdoor mask mandate in place through the rest of the week, despite county health officials lifting that requirement, Supt. Alberto Carvalho said.

The district will consult with expert advisors and consider later this week whether it would be appropriate to lift the outdoor mask mandate as early as the beginning of next week, Carvalho said during a visit Wednesday morning to Fremont High School in South Los Angeles. He said it was premature to discuss the parameters for lifting the indoor mask mandate.

There are lots of places where you still need to wear a mask in California, even if you’re fully vaccinated.

Rest of Southern California

L.A. County will have stricter rules in place than San Diego, Orange, Riverside or San Bernardino counties, which don’t have their own mask orders.

Palm Springs also plans to keep its indoor masking policy in place for the time being.

Meanwhile, officials at Disneyland on Tuesday confirmed that the Anaheim resort will follow the state’s guidelines by allowing vaccinated visitors to enter indoor eateries, stores and attractions without masks, starting Thursday. Unvaccinated visitors must wear a mask in those settings, but park employees will not be checking vaccination records, Disney representatives said.

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park and Sea World in San Diego have also announced plans to follow the state guidelines regarding masks.

The state will reassess conditions at the end of the month before making a decision on school masking rules.

Where masks are still needed

Even under California’s relaxed rules, almost everyone — vaccinated or not — will still have to wear a mask when:

  • In a hospital, medical clinic, dialysis center, dentist’s office or any other place where healthcare is provided.
  • In nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • While taking public transportation. This includes Ubers, Lyfts and taxis in addition to buses and subways. Planes and ferries count too.
  • In transportation hubs such as airports, train stations, marinas and bus terminals.
  • When indoors at a K-12 school or child-care center.
  • In homeless shelters.
  • In correctional facilities, including jails, prisons and other detention centers.
  • In emergency shelters established for those displaced by wildfires and other disasters.
  • In cooling and heating centers set up during bouts of extreme heat or extreme cold.

If you’re unvaccinated, California also requires masks when you’re:

  • Indoors in a restaurant, retail store, movie theater or other business.
  • Inside a government building or other public setting.

High-risk warning

Even though vaccinated people will have the freedom to go maskless in these indoor environments, the state Department of Public Health recommends that vaccinated people continue to cover their noses and mouths “when the risk may be high.”

For now, only certain categories of people are allowed to go without masks:

  • Infants and toddlers under the age of 2 who might suffocate if wearing a mask.
  • People who can’t tolerate any obstruction to their breathing because of a medical condition.
  • Anyone who can’t remove a mask on their own because of a disability or a medical or mental health condition.
  • Those who depend on reading lips to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired.
  • Workers whose jobs would be dangerous if they had to wear a mask. Workers don’t get to make this determination themselves — that has to come from federal, state or local regulators, or be laid out in company guidelines.

Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.


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