SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday the nation’s most populous state would stop requiring people to wear masks in almost all circumstances on June 15, describing a world he said will look “a lot like the world we entered into before the pandemic.”
“The bottom line is we’ll go back to the most broad strokes of semblance or normalcy if we continue down this path in the next five weeks,” Newsom said. “Outdoor masking, if we reach that threshold, will be substantially, in fact, will be eliminated.”
Current state mask rules allow fully-vaccinated Californians to go without a mask in most outdoor settings with the exceptions of massive gatherings like live sporting events, performances and festivals.
Those who are not vaccinated have to wear them in those settings and in other settings where physical distancing is not possible.
As for getting rid of the indoor mask rules, Newsom says California will likely have them beyond June 15.
“Indoor activities, we will still likely have some mask guidelines and mandates, but we hope sooner than later that those will be lifted as well,” Newsom said.
The governor mentioned the mask rule changes on a stop in Monterey County while promoting his proposed state budget.
The comments were his attempt to clarify what he reportedly said a day earlier in Los Angeles.
“We’re not wearing face coverings. We’re not restricted in any way, shape or form from doing the old things that we used to do, save for huge, large-scale indoor convention events like that, where we use our common sense,” Newsom said in an interview with Fox 11’s Elex Michaelson.
California has required people to wear masks in public places since June 18. The guidance requires people to wear a mask when gathering indoors with people who are not vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people can meet indoors without wearing a mask. They can also not wear a mask outdoors, except when attending large gatherings such as sporting events, festivals and concerts.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is considering changing its workplace mask rules later this month. The proposed rules would not require employees to wear masks indoors if all workers are fully vaccinated and no one has coronavirus symptoms, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Last month, Newsom announced he would lift most of the state’s coronavirus restrictions on June 15 if the state’s coronavirus case numbers continued to improve. But at the time, Newsom and state public health officials said the state would not lift the mask mandate after June 15.
Tuesday, Newsom appeared to change his mind about that, telling Fox 11 that the state would only require masks “only for those massively large settings where people from around the world, not just around the country, are conversing.”
“We’ll make guidance recommendations, but no mandates and … no restrictions on businesses large and small,” Newsom said.
Representatives from the California Department of Public Health did not return phone and email messages asking for more details on Newsom’s comments.
About half of the states require people to wear masks in public. In early March, Texas became the largest state to get rid of its mask mandate, a move Newsom called “absolutely reckless.”
At the time, Newsom told reporters “we’re never going to subscribe to the point of view of some other states.”
But that was more than two months ago. Since then, the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in California is just 1.1%, a fact Newsom cited in his interview with Fox 11, noting it is “the lowest in the nation.” More than 14.6 million people are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and another 5.1 million are partially vaccinated.
Another change since March: Organizers seeking to remove Newsom from office gathered enough verified signatures to make it likely Newsom will face a recall election later this year. That recall effort was fueled mostly by anger over Newsom’s handling of the pandemic.