The California mask mandate is back in effect.
State officials announced Dec. 13, 2021, that people are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings — regardless of vaccination status — from Dec. 15, 2021, through Jan. 15, 2022.
UPDATE: The mandate has been extended through Feb. 15, 2022.
In the order, the California Department of Public Health cited a nearly 50 percent increase in COVID-19 cases a 14 percent spike in hospitalizations since Thanksgiving. The mask mandate is also aimed at preventing the spread of the virus during the holiday season, when people often gather in indoor spaces.
California’s previous mask mandate was lifted in mid-June 2021.
California Mask Mandate
For employers, the California Department of Public Health says businesses cannot deny entry to customers or employees who are wearing a mask.
No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.
Meanwhile, California officials have not outlined how the mask mandate will be enforced, though California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told reporters the expectation is that people will wear masks.
“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 and we hope that those are few and far between,” he said. “We are at a point in this pandemic where we are expecting Californians to heed the warning, understand what we’re seeing or concerned about, and make the choice to mask up for the period of time.”
In workplaces, employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards, or in some workplaces the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard. Employers should consult those regulations for other applicable requirements.
Exemptions to California’s Mask Mandate
Despite the reinstated mask mandate in California, there are exemptions.
Certain individuals are exempt from wearing a mask at all times:
- Children younger than 2 years old
- People with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask, including those with a medical condition under which wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance
- People who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired
- Workers whose mask-wearing would create a risk, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep employers on their toes.
Employers with locations in California may have already had their own mask-wearing policies for employees, but should be prepared to comply with the latest order from state officials.