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(KTXL) – The statewide mask mandate requiring everyone to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, goes into effect in California Wednesday.

To ensure that we collectively protect the health and well-being of all Californians; keep schools open for in-person instruction; and allow California’s economy to remain open and thrive, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, for the next four weeks.

California Department of Public Health

But there are some groups exempt from the latest indoor mask mandate, which is expected to expire on Jan. 15.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the following groups are exempt from wearing a mask at all times:

  • Persons younger than 2 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.

The CDPH also specifies certain circumstances that allow Californians to forgo masks:

  • Masks may be removed while actively eating or drinking.
  • Persons who are working alone in a closed office or room.
  • Persons who are actively performing at indoor live or recorded settings or events such as music, acting, or singing. If performers do not wear a mask indoors while performing, CDPH strongly recommends that individuals undergo screening testing at least once weekly. An FDA-approved antigen test, PCR test, or pooled PCR test is acceptable for evaluation of an individual’s COVID-19 status.
  • Persons who are obtaining a medical or cosmetic service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the services.
  • Workers who wear respiratory protection, per CalOSHA requirements.
  • Persons who are specifically exempted from wearing masks by other CDPH guidance.

The CDPH also notes that masks are also required during indoor exercise.

“Masks are required for all persons, as practicable, while playing all indoor sports, exercising or conditioning,” the CDPH website states. 

The CDPH recommends individuals undergo weekly screening tests if masks can’t be worn due to heavy exertion. 

When announcing the mandate on Monday, Dr. Mark Ghaly cited a statewide 47% increase in COVID-19 cases since Thanksgiving, and the CDPH reported a 14% increase in hospitalizations. 

Dr. Ghaly did not elaborate on how the mandate would be enforced.

“We know that there’s going to be people who don’t necessarily agree with this, who are tired, who aren’t going to mask,” Ghaly said. 

The CDPH says the temporary mandate adds a new layer of mitigation as the omicron variant is detected across California.

“Additionally, this new measure brings additional protection to individuals, families and communities during the holidays when more travel occurs, and time is spent indoors,” according to the CDPH website.

As of Tuesday, California has confirmed 4,891,985 COVID-19 cases and 74,704 deaths. Over 80% of all Californians eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have received at least one dose, according to the CDPH.

The CDPH said unvaccinated Californians are falling ill, being hospitalized and dying at a much higher rate than other residents. In data released Monday, the CDPH reported unvaccinated residents are 7.1 times more likely to get COVID-19, 12.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus and 13 times more likely to die from complications of the virus.