California to alter COVID rules in healthcare settings: Masks and vaccinations not required

A woman in a white lab coat and mask holds a small tray.
Jazmin Escamilla takes blood samples Dec. 19 in the ambulance bay outside the emergency department at MLK Community Hospital in Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

With the COVID-19 state of emergency a thing of the past, California health officials on Friday unveiled plans to relax guidance on masking in high-risk settings and to end vaccination requirements for healthcare workers.

Among the changes announced by the California Department of Public Health is the end of statewide mask requirements in healthcare and other indoor high-risk settings — including correctional facilities and emergency and homeless shelters — beginning April 3.

Effective the same day, California will no longer require COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers, including those in adult and direct care settings, correctional facilities and detention centers.


The monthlong delay is meant to allow local health departments and healthcare facilities time “to develop and implement plans customized to their needs and local conditions to continue to protect Californians through the end of the winter virus season,” according to the Department of Public Health.

California’s 3-year-old COVID-19 state of emergency will lift Tuesday — a development that reflects the dawn of a next, hopeful phase of the pandemic.

Feb. 28, 2023

In other changes, starting March 13, an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 can exit isolation after five days, provided they feel well, symptoms are improving, and they have been fever-free for 24 hours. The state’s earlier recommendation was to exit isolation upon receiving a negative rapid test on or after the fifth day following the onset of symptoms or the first positive test. For those who couldn’t test, or continued to test positive after Day 5, the state recommended isolating for at least 10 days.

“We have now reached a point where we can update some of the COVID-19 guidance to continue to balance prevention and adapting to living with COVID-19,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s public health director and state health officer, said in a statement.

The changes were announced three days after Gov. Gavin Newsom officially terminated California’s 3-year-old COVID-19 state of emergency.

Los Angeles County will end its COVID emergency declaration at the end of March, becoming the latest region to do so amid improving pandemic conditions.

Feb. 28, 2023

State health officials emphasized that Californians will still be able to get their hands on COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatment.

Californians “will continue to be able to access COVID-19 vaccines, testing and therapeutics with no out-of-pocket costs,” according to the state Health and Human Services Agency. Until Nov. 11, those with private health insurance or who are enrolled in Medi-Cal “can access COVID-19 vaccines, testing and therapeutics from any appropriately licensed provider without any out-of-pocket costs, even if the provider is outside the enrollee’s health plan network,” the agency previously told The Times.


Cost-sharing or coinsurance amounts may apply to those who access those resources from an out-of-network provider after that date.

“We stand before Californians today with a humble message of thanks for taking the hard steps to help manage COVID-19 and with an ongoing commitment to be prepared for what comes next,” Aragón said Friday. “Our communities did a lot of the hard work by getting vaccinated and boosted, staying home and testing when sick, requesting treatments when positive and masking to slow the spread.”