California will lift its indoor mask requirements Tuesday for unvaccinated people and March 12 for schools and child care facilities, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
The changes will mark the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began that both unvaccinated people and students will be allowed to remove their masks indoors.
Newsom jointly announced the new statewide masking policy with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who also announced changes in their states, citing declining COVID case rates and hospitalizations across the west coast.
"Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high," Newsom said in a statement. "We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward."
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Masks will still be required under state and federal rules in health care settings, prisons, homeless shelters, long-term care faciltiies and on public transit.
California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd said he expected mixed reactions to the removal of school mask requirements and called for respect and understanding as the announcement "is bound to disrupt and destabilize some school communities."
"Simply put, while some students are ready to immediately remove their masks, others remain very afraid," Boyd said. "We urge local school districts to continue to work with educators and families and to act cautiously while prioritizing the safety of students, educators, and their families."
Newsom said local governments and school districts will still have the ability to be stricter in their enforcement of indoor masking.
Most counties across the state and in the Bay Area have already removed their indoor mask requirements for vaccinated people.