News   /   March 2, 2022   /   

California Department of Public Health Lifts Masking Requirements for Indoor Public Settings and Schools

On February 28, 2022, The California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) announced its decision to lift masking requirements for indoor public settings. Beginning March 1, 2022, all persons, regardless of vaccination status, are no longer required to wear masks in public settings. Instead, all persons, regardless of vaccination status, are strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks indoors in public settings and businesses.

The CDPH also announced that the universal masking requirement for K-12 schools and childcare sites will end on March 12, 2022. School districts will still have the authority to maintain masking requirements at schools and during school activities, and the CDPH continues to strongly recommend that individuals in K-12 and childcare settings wear masks when indoors. Individuals will also retain the right to wear a mask if they choose to. Specified high-risk settings with vulnerable individuals will maintain masking requirements.

LA County Public Health has announced it will align school masking measures with the state and shift to strongly recommending indoor masking requirements at childcare sites and K-12 schools beginning March 12, 2022.

Masking Requirements

Effective immediately, masks will still be required for all individuals in the following indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. The CDPH recommends surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit.

  • On public transit (examples: airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares) and in transportation hubs (examples: airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation);
  • Emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers;
  • Healthcare settings (applies to all healthcare settings, including those that are not covered by the State Health Officer Order issued on July 26, 2021);
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers;
  • Homeless shelters; and
  • Long term care settings & adult and senior care facilities.

CDPH guidance states that masks are strongly recommended for all persons, regardless of vaccine status, in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public). 

Guidance for Businesses, Venue Operators or Hosts

In settings where masks are strongly recommended, businesses, venue operators or hosts should consider:

  • Providing information to all patrons, guests and attendees regarding masking recommendations for all persons, regardless of vaccine status.
  • Providing information to all patrons, guests and attendees to consider better fit and filtration for masks [Surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit are recommended over cloth masks].
  • Requiring all patrons to wear masks, especially when risk in the community may be high, or if those being served are at high-risk for severe disease or illness.
  • Requiring attendees who do not provide proof of vaccination to enter indoor Mega Events to continue masking during the event, especially when not actively eating or drinking.

No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

Exemptions To Masks Requirements

The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

  • Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

In workplaces, employers continue to be subject to other applicable standards, including the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) which may require masking for certain individuals, and should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements. OMLO will continue to monitor these developments carefully. For more information on masking requirements in schools or in the workplace, contact your OMLO attorney or a member of the Education Law Practice Group.

This article is for informational purposes only and only provides an overview of specific developments. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation. For actual legal advice and specifics pertaining to your governmental entity, please contact your OMLO attorney for assistance.

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