California Weighing Issues Around New CDC Masking Guidelines

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California's governor said Friday that his office is weighing issues of enforcement and workplace safety in considering whether and when to adopt the latest federal guidelines around masking.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said his office has been talking with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health officers and other states since the CDC's announcement Thursday calling for fully vaccinated people to skip face coverings and social distancing in most situations.

The agency's guidelines still call for people to wear masks in crowded indoor settings, such as buses, planes, hospitals and prisons, and says residents should follow local rules.

But Newsom says he doesn't know what the federal guidelines would look like in schools, where younger children are not yet able to get vaccinated, and what happens if businesses want to require masks.

“There's a whole host of complexities that we all have to work through,” Newsom said when asked of the guidelines at a budget briefing. He said some governors are quick to “default to the CDC guidelines, but now are starting to appreciate some of the nuances and complexities around enforcement or lack thereof.”

The state is on track to fully reopen its economy next month, signaling an end to most pandemic restrictions, with infection rates at record lows and more people inoculated against the coronavirus. On Thursday, the state began allowing children 12 to 15 to receive the vaccine.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter to the governor Friday, urging him to adopt federal guidelines as the county of 10 million has made “tremendous progress” in inoculating residents.

Some people expressed glee at the thought of shedding their masks. But others, including business owners, were more hesitant, worried over enforcement.

“It puts small businesses in the place of having to police people all over again, and you can’t tell by looking at somebody that they’ve been vaccinated," said Justin Lawrence, co-owner of Fayes Coffee in San Francisco, which had a chalkboard sign outside that read: “Bear with us. Masks are still required."

In California, people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask outdoors unless at crowded events. But they still have to wear a mask indoors unless meeting with other vaccinated people. The state has a number of other rules for businesses and other public places that vary by county based on the prevalence of the virus.

Marie Biscarra, co-owner of Isso Clothing in San Francisco, said the new recommendation is encouraging and she can't wait to see customers' faces again. But she also knows that not everyone will or can get vaccinated, including children.

“We just want everybody to feel comfortable. So therefore, our stance on it is for the meantime, if it’s going to be inside, we’re going to say, please wear a mask," she said.


Associated Press reporter Janie Har contributed from San Francisco.

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