By John Commins
California state health officials announced this week that they will extend a mask mandate through June 15, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that lifted many of the restrictions for fully vaccinated people.
“Until June 15, when California plans to fully reopen the economy, California will keep our existing guidance around masks in place,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, MD, said in a media release.
“On June 15, California plans to implement the CDC’s guidelines around masking to allow fully vaccinated Californians to go without a mask in most indoor settings,” Ghaly said. “This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change while we continue our relentless focus on delivering vaccines, particularly in underserved communities.”
The announcement came just days after the CDC loosened restrictions on mask usage for fully vaccinated people. The announcement got mixed reactions from across the political and healthcare spectrums, with some complaining that the new guidelines were confusing, and others complaining that they were long overdue.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has defended the decision to loosen restrictions, telling CNN’s State of the Union that the move was based on “evolving data.”
“I’m delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals. And it evolved,” she said. “I deliver it as soon as I can when we have that information available.”
The California Nurses Association — noting that the United States is still recording more than 600 COVID-19-related deaths each day — had vigorously opposed the CDC guidance and had asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to ignore it.
CNA President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, said the state’s decision to delay any changes to the current guidance “a prudent one that we applaud.”
“We encourage our state officials to continue to look to the data and the science when making these critical public health decisions and not cave to political pressure or arbitrary timelines,” Triunfo-Cortez said.
California, with 39.5 million residents, has recorded nearly 63,000 COVID-19 deaths, the most of any state. However, the state is ranked 29th overall in per-capital deaths, recording 159 deaths per 100,000 people.
Ghaly said the state “has made amazing progress” in the pandemic fight with more than 34 million vaccines administered and one of the lowest case and positivity rates in the nation.
To date, the United States has recorded more than 584,000 COVID-19 deaths.
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.