More than two years after the start of COVID-19 pandemic, California is finally easing some safety guidelines that were put in place to help limit the spread of the virus.
According to CBS, the new guidelines take effect shifts away from a strong recommendation, for mask wearing for the general population in all indoor settings at all time. Masks will become optional in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers when community spread is low.
The new guidelines go into effect Friday.
"This shift in masking is consistent with California's SMARTER Plan and gives Californians the information they should consider when deciding when to wear a mask, including the rate of spread in the community and personal risk," Dr. Tomas Aragon, the state's public health officer and director of the Department of Public Health, said in a statement.
Masks will still be required in health care and long-term care settings. Californians who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions were still urged to take extra COVID-19 precautions. And while mask mandates are changing, the Department of Public Health says businesses and schools must still allow people to wear a mask if they want to.
COVID cases have been trending downward across the state, reflecting an overall decrease in transmission and infections. In Los Angeles County, officials say about 43% of patients with COVID were actually hospitalized due to virus-related illnesses, while the rest have been admitted for other reasons and only found out they were infected when they were tested upon admission.
In Los Angeles County, masks are still a requirement on public transit, but with the county's seven-day average new case rate on the verge of falling below 100 per 100,000 residents, that mandate could end soon.