Some Mask Rules Lifted for Vaccinated People, Rules Still in Place for Unvaccinated Individuals

California’s universal mask requirement for vaccinated individuals expired yesterday, but unvaccinated persons still are required to mask up in indoor public settings and businesses, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

In guidance issued last week (available here), universal indoor face covering is also required, regardless of vaccination status, in certain places, including:

  • On public transit (such as airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares) and in transportation hubs (such as airports, bus terminals, marinas, train stations, seaports or other ports, subway stations, or any other areas that provide transportation).
  • Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare settings;
  • Emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers;
  • Health care settings;
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers;
  • Homeless shelters; and
  • Long-term care settings and adult and senior care facilities.

The CDPH recommends that fully vaccinated individuals continue indoor masking when the risk may be high. Surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with a good fit are highly recommended.

For businesses where unvaccinated individuals must wear face coverings, the CDPH says businesses, venue operators or hosts may choose to:

  • Provide information to all patrons, guests and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.
  • Implement vaccine verification to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask.
  • Require all patrons to wear masks.

The revised CDPH guidance also contains face covering requirement exceptions for certain individuals, such as children under two years old, persons with medical conditions or disabilities, hearing-impaired individuals and those persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a workplace risk.

Although CDPH guidance is relaxing statewide face covering requirements, employers still need to monitor local health orders. To align with the new CDPH guidance, 11 Bay Area counties lifted their universal face covering orders effective today (February 16, 2022). However, other jurisdictions, such as Santa Clara County and Los Angeles County, will continue to require indoor face coverings regardless of vaccination status for the time being.

Employers also must continue to comply with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) face covering requirements. Generally, the revised CDPH guidance is more closely aligned with ETS requirements. The ETS requires unvaccinated individuals to wear face coverings indoors and generally allows fully vaccinated individuals to forgo face coverings; however, the ETS has additional face covering requirements in certain circumstances, such as employee screening, close contacts and outbreaks.

Employers should continue to monitor and review guidance from Cal/OSHA, the CDPH and local health departments for any changes to COVID-19 workplace requirements.

Staff Contact: James Ward


James Ward
James W. Ward joined the CalChamber in June 2019 as an employment law subject matter expert/legal writer and editor. In that position, he enhances the ongoing efforts of the CalChamber legal affairs team to explain for nonlawyers how statutes, regulations and court cases affect California businesses and employers. Ward holds a B.A. in humanities, magna cum laude, and an M.A. in history from California State University, Sacramento. He earned his J.D. with great distinction from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, where he was staff editor of the Pacific McGeorge Global Business and Development Law Journal, and served on the Moot Court Honors Board. See full bio.