Face Masks in San Diego: What Are the Rules, Right Now?

California and, thus, San Diego County, will no be easing the mask rules linked to the CDC's recent guidance until at least June 15

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Face masks. Everyone is talking about them. But who has to wear them in San Diego County, right now? And where? And when? Here’s a breakdown of where the local rules for face masks stand – at least for now.

Why the Confusion?

The confusion began when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on May 13, eased its mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people.

California's head of Health and Human Services says the state will not align with the new relaxed mask-wearing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California plans to wait until June 15 to ease restrictions.

The CDC said fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings – and even removed the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated. The updated CDC guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on May 13.

But what about mask guidance for the state of California? Or for San Diego County?

NBC 7’s Nicole Gomez has reaction from one business owner on California’s decision to keep its mask mandate until June 15.

The weekend passed. Confusion continued.

San Diego County Public Health officials said they were waiting on further guidance from the California Department of Public Health to loosen the mask rules locally.

On Monday, May 17, California health officials said the state won’t align with the CDC’s relaxed mask guidance. Instead, the state will stick to the target date of June 15 set by Gov. Gavin Newsom for fully reopening California – and finally getting rid of the color-coded tiered system.

CDPH’s Dr. Mark Ghaly said the next four weeks will give the state and its counties more time to prepare and get more Californians vaccinated.

“In indoor settings, including on public transportation and in our schools, face coverings continue to be required, regardless of vaccination status,” Ghaly said on May 17.

And with that, San Diego County is following the state’s mask guidance, not the CDC’s.

By June 15, if California can fully reopen, that guidance will change once more.

According to the CDC, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks or more after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after your single-dose of the J&J vaccine.

In California, you'll have to wait another month before losing the face mask, but that contradicts CDC guidelines, which say fully vaccinated people can stop wearing them now, reports NBC 7's Artie Ojeda.
NBC 7's Catherine Garcia spoke with Chair Supervisor Nathan Fletcher about mask requirements in San Diego County.

Who Needs to Wear a Mask in San Diego County? Where?

As of May 17, whether you are FULLY VACCINATED in San Diego County (and California) or UNVACCINATED, you must wear a mask here:

  • Indoors in public places, unless you’re eating or drinking
  • On public transportation, all the time – this includes planes
  • Indoor and outdoor crowded places such as:
    • Concerts
    • Parades
    • Sporting events
    • Fairs
    • Stores
  • At hospitals, nursing homes, the doctor’s office
  • In schools – the state and CDC officials agree on this one, for now
NBC 7's Rory Devine heard from parents and school district officials about mask guidance for vaccinated students.
The Transportation Security Administration said travelers will be required to wear face masks through Sept. 13 in airports and on buses, trains and commercial flights.

Masks are NOT required, whether you’re vaccinated or not here, in San Diego County:

  • Outdoors, in non-crowded settings where you can distance yourself from others (like while exercising outside)
  • When you’re getting a service that involves a mask coming off your face temporarily (like during a dental visit)

In small gatherings, the CDPH said those who are fully vaccinated can go unmasked if everyone in their group is fully vaccinated, too. If anyone is present who is both unvaccinated and at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease, the CDPH said masks should still be worn.

Locally, San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said mask-free outdoor activities – in non-crowded places – are the safest for those who are fully vaccinated.

As of May 17, according to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, 1,798,866 San Diego County residents had been vaccinated with at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, while 1,353,783 San Diego County residents had been fully vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new mask-wearing guidance on Thursday.
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