A food vendor wears a mask while walking by the Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. Photo by Jacqueline Ramírez for Boyle Heights Beat

By Jackie Fortiér

Originally published May 17, 2021

California health officials will allow people who are fully vaccinated to go without a mask both indoors and outdoors in most settings beginning June 15, the same day the state plans a full reopening.

That’s despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing last week that fully vaccinated Americans can immediately stop wearing masks and socially distancing indoors or outdoors. There are some exceptions: People should wear masks in crowded indoor locations such as airplanes, buses, hospitals and prisons.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s director of Health and Human Services, said the four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for the transition to the CDC guidelines and get more people vaccinated, including children 12 and older who recently became eligible.

When asked about so-called “vaccine passports,” Ghaly said there was no plan to implement them right now, but did say the state will determine possible enforcement steps.

“We do plan to continue to work with business sectors [and] employers throughout the state on exactly how this can be done, to ensure that those without the masks are indeed vaccinated and making sure that we continue to provide a high degree of protection to California,” he said.

The state’s move creates a floor, not a ceiling, and county public health officials can require stricter mask rules.

“If a county chooses to further delay that date, or wait or nuance it a bit and require [masks] in certain other venues and sectors, that is something that can be done by local health officer order,” Ghaly said.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the state’s most populous county will follow the state’s lead.

“I think barring something fundamentally different happening here in L.A. County that would really bring about cause for great concern, you can see us embracing the June 15 reopening plan,” Ferrer said. “But at this point, we feel very comfortable being aligned with the state.”

As for the businesses — including some grocery chains — that have already stopped requiring masks, Ghaly said he hoped those companies would abide by the rules.

“This is going to be pretty easy for businesses, and customers, residents and visitors to understand because there’s one standard for the whole state,” Ferrer said. “And it requires that [fully vaccinated people] continue to wear our masks until June 15.”

This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2021 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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