On December 13, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued a “guidance” on face coverings titled “Guidance for the Use of Face Covering.” Although titled as a guidance, the document states that the CDPH “is requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, for the next four weeks (December 15, 2021, through January 15, 2022).” The CDPH explained that the new guidance was enacted in part because the Omicron variant seems to spread more easily than the original COVID-19 virus and the Delta variant and that the additional protection is warranted during the holiday period “when more travel occurs.”
The CDPH is requiring that all individuals comply with the newly issued guidance regardless of their vaccination status, with a few exceptions. Specifically, the CDPH exempts the following individuals from the mask requirements:
- “Persons younger than two years old.”
- “Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask.”
- “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.”
In New York state, as of December 13, 2021, every person over the age of two will be required to wear a mask in all indoor public places, unless the business requires proof of vaccination for those 12 years of age or older as a condition for entry. The state mandate will be in place until at least January 15.
This action came four days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a requirement that all employees of city private businesses must have received one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by December 27.
According to the FAQs published by the New York State Health Department, the policy applies to all indoor spaces that are not private residences. It applies to all offices where proof of vaccination is not required for entry, and all office employees and visitors will be required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, except while eating, drinking, or alone in an enclosed room. Therefore, if one is in an office where the state mask policy applies because there is not full vaccination throughout the office, a fully vaccinated person still has to wear a mask unless eating, drinking, or working alone in an enclosed office.
The vaccination requirement that would obviate the need for an establishment to require masks is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standard for “fully vaccinated,” which is two weeks past an individual’s final vaccine dose. (This would be the second shot for Pfizer/Moderna or the first and only dose for Janssen/Johnson & Johnson). The state’s vaccination standard is thus more significant than the city’s recently announced requirement of two doses (as part of “Key to NYC” program for restaurant, bar, gym, and entertainment venues) or one shot (for all other private businesses) without any two-week waiting period after the shot to satisfy the city standard.
A violation of this measure may result in a maximum $1,000 fine for each violation and local health departments have been tasked with enforcement.