Don’t ditch your mask yet, California. You still need it in lots of places

A discarded box of face masks.
A discarded box of face masks in downtown Los Angeles. California has lifted its universal indoor mask mandate, but there are still lots of places you’ll need to wear one.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California’s universal indoor mask mandate expired at midnight, but that doesn’t mean you can ditch your mask. Even if you’re up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations, there are still lots of places in the Golden State where you’ll need to cover your nose and mouth.

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.

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.”

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

Feb. 16, 2022

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.

Some local health authorities have their own mask rules that are more strict than the state’s. In L.A., Santa Clara and Mendocino counties, you’ll need to keep wearing a mask inside businesses, government offices and other public indoor settings even if you’re fully vaccinated.