California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday his state’s plan to lift the mask mandate for vaccinated people on Feb. 15. The move comes just days after Newsom went maskless at a sports event where masks were mandatory.
The mask mandate was brought back in mid-December to curb the spread of Omicron and was extended through Feb. 15. California surpassed 80,000 deaths from the pandemic and confirmed 8 million cases of the virus. However, new cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are on the wane as of Monday and are projected to decline further.
The state will end its indoor masking requirement next week, but the rules will remain in place for school children, state officials said. After Feb. 15, unvaccinated people will still be required to mask indoors, and everyone, vaccinated or not, will still be required to wear masks in higher-risk areas like public transit and nursing homes and other living facilities intended for the elderly.
Local governments will be permitted to continue their own indoor masking requirements, and last week Los Angeles County’s health officials stated their intent to keep the requirements in place even after the state lifts the mandate.
Additionally, indoor “mega events” with more than 1,000 people will require vaccinations and/or negative tests for attendees, and those who did not take the jab will have to wear a mask. For outdoor events with more than 10,000 people, there is no vaccination requirement, but masks and negative tests are recommended, but not required.
As detailed by health officials, thresholds will increase from the current limit of 500 attendees for indoor and 5,000 attendees for outdoor events to 1,000 and 10,000 respectively. The threshold comes after Sunday’s Super Bowl is expected to draw as many as 100,000 football fans in Los Angeles.
Furthermore, California will also lift its requirement for people to produce a negative COVID test before entering a hospital or nursing home, effective immediately.
"Omicron has loosened its hold on California, vaccines for children under 5 are around the corner, and access to COVID-19 treatments is improving," said state Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, per ABC7. "With things moving in the right direction, we are making responsible modifications to COVID-19 prevention measures, while also continuing to develop a longer-term action plan for the state."