What to Know: Who Has to Keep Wearing a Mask in San Diego?

How about schools, amusement parks, at work and at restaurants?

Portrait of young woman putting on a protective mask

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive to drop the statewide mask mandate went into effect in San Diego and around the state on Tuesday, but there are exceptions, so where do you still need to wear a mask?

One place San Diegans might need to mask up? Schools.

“We are in the process of transforming our public education system and moving out of this pandemic mindset, and that includes masks,” Newsom told NBC Bay Area last week. “That will happen. Question is when.”

Everyone In San Diego County Is Required to Wear Masks:

  • Public transit
  • Health care settings (including long-term care facilities)
  • Adult and senior care facilities
  • Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers
  • Homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers

As of Tuesday, San Diego County has adopted the California Department of Public Health's latest masking guidance and has stopped requiring fully vaccinated people to wear masks in most indoor settings.

According to San Diego County health officials, a “person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one shot of the Johnson and Johnson immunization.”

Who Doesn’t Have to Wear a Mask?

  • Children under 2 years old
  • People with a medical condition, a mental health condition or disability that precludes wearing a mask, including those for whom a mask could obstruct breathing, those who are unconscious or incapacitated, those who are unable to remove a mask without assistance
  • People for whom seeing the mouth is essential for communication, including those who are hearing impaired or those who are communicating with a person who is hearing impaired
  • People for whom wearing a mask would create a risk as they work, as determined by local, state or federal regulators, or workplace safety guidelines.

So, yes, you have to be fully vaccinated if you want to drop the mask at retail spaces, for example, or workplaces and restaurants.

Everyone, however — vaccinated or not — will have to wear masks in higher-risk areas like public transit and nursing homes and other congregant living facilities, officials said.

NBC 7's Omari Fleming spoke to essential workers in different industries about the indoor mask mandate's expiration.

Public Events

State officials also announced last week that you won’t need a mask at indoor “mega events,” where more than 1,000 people will have to require vaccinations or negative tests for those attending and those who are unvaccinated will be required to wear masks. For outdoor events with more than 10,000 people, there is no vaccination requirement but masks or negative tests are recommended.

Those thresholds increased from the requirements for 500 attendees for indoor and 5,000 attendees for outdoor events.

So what does that mean, in practical applications? Well, Disneyland said on Tuesday that it was dropping its mask requirement for the unvaccinated (beginning Thursday), and the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in Indio, Calif., took that a step further, dismissing all COVID protocols when the festivals take place later this year.

An official from the San Diego Zoo said on Tuesday that it was following the state’s new guidelines and dropping the mask requirement for guests.

Legoland’s senior media-relations manager, Jake Gonzalez, said the park would be allowing vaccinated guests without masks indoors starting on Wednesday, and that signage would be posted informing visitors about the policy. He also said, however, that all employees would be required to wear masks when working inside until further notice.

NBC 7 has contacted SeaWorld for clarity on its mask policy but has not yet heard back.

Meanwhile, county officials said masks are recommended but not required at houses of worship in San Diego County.

For not at least, San Diego Unified School District students will continue to require students to wear a mask indoors and outdoors, reports NBC 7's Rory Devine.

Public Schools and Universities

So, what about educational settings?

For now, students and staff at California’s K-12 schools will need to keep the masks on.

UCSD professor of pediatrics Dr. Howard Taras, who also has been a consultant to school districts during the pandemic, told NBC 7 last week that it was too soon to lift the mandate.

“What we need to do is have very high rates of vaccination in our schools, up to 90%, and then I believe what they’re asking for is sensible,” he said.

Districts can make the guidelines more restrictive if they choose to do so. In San Diego Unified, for instance, students must wear their masks outdoors as well as indoors. District officials rethought that stance, however, and decided on Tuesday to allow students to be outside without their masks on.

“Effective Feb. 16, students, staff and others on San Diego Unified school grounds will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors,” read a news release, in part, sent out by the district on Tuesday, adding that “[field] trips will be permitted to resume for both indoor and outdoor venues, with health and safety guidelines followed, under the updated guidance.”

The district also said it was revisiting its indoor mask policy.

“San Diego Unified will reconvene its panel of scientific experts from UC San Diego to begin discussing what conditions would make it advisable to lift the district’s indoor mask policy for students and staff,” the news release said.

The move comes as the state mask mandate lapses in many cases, but not at schools, reports NBC 7's Priya Sridhar.

On Monday, a group of 18 school board members from Alpine Union, Julian Union, Ramona Unified, La Mesa-Spring Valley, Cajon Valley Union, Rancho Santa Fe Unified, Lakeside Union, and the Santee Union School District asked Newsom to give local control for school and staff in school settings.

Mask mandates, in general, have been overwhelmingly popular in California according to exit polls and surveys. Some of the bigger school districts in California like San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified have supported many of Newsom’s approaches to school pandemic policies. NBC 7 reached out to the governor’s office to get a response to the local school board members’ demands and has not heard back.

For now, parents should consult with their student’s school district to determine its guidelines.

At least for the present, things were much the same at San Diego County’s two largest schools of higher learning. Though San Diego State, too, is reviewing its indoor mask policy, “SDSU has extended its current facial covering policy through Monday, Feb. 28. This includes universal indoor masking at this time.” And up at UC San Diego, “everyone on the UC San Diego campus must wear a mask indoors (N-95 and KN-95 masks recommended) regardless of vaccination status. Outdoor masking is also highly encouraged,” a school representative told NBC 7 on Tuesday.

Before resuming the masking requirement in December, California had lifted the requirement for people who were vaccinated as of June 15, a date that Newsom described then as the state’s grand reopening. However, many counties soon reinstituted local mask orders as the summer delta surge, and its omicron replacement, took hold.

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