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By Miriam Raftery

May 18, 2021 (San Diego) – California and San Diego officials have announced that they will wait until June 15 to lift mask mandates for most public places. The four-week wait allows young people age 12 and up to get vaccinated, since the CDC just approved COVID-19 vaccines for younger teens starting last week.

Starting June 15, assuming cases remain low, as expected, Californians who are fully vaccinated will be able to go without masks in most indoor settings, according to Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services Secretary.  Vaccinated people can already go without masks in most outdoor settings.

“We urge all Californians to get vaccinated to ensure that infection and hospitalization rates remain low across the state and that we can all return to the activities we love,” Dr. Ghaly advises.

“San Diego County is aligned with the California Department of Public Health and will wait until June 15 to adopt CDC mask guidance,” Nathan Fletcher, Chair of the County Board of Supervisors, announced yesterday on twitter. “This short time frame allows us to ensure everyone has access to the vaccine and time for business and entities across our county to prepare for the change.”

Fletcher credits a “careful posture” for resulting in “a low positivity rate and one of the lowest death rates.” He adds, “continuing the mask requirements for a few more weeks provides an added layer of protection as we work on getting more San Diegans vaccinated.”

Vaccinated individuals can already go without masks outdoors in San Diego County, except at crowded events such as concerts or sporting events. Unvaccinated people are asked to wear masks outdoors wherever physical distancing can’t be maintained.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently advised that due to the effectiveness of the vaccines, mask mandates can be lifted as states deem appropriate. However, the federal government is still requiring masks for everyone on airplanes and public transit such as buses, trains or trollies as well as in crowded settings.

Once mask mandates are lifted June 15, businesses will still have the option to require masks or proof of vaccination for those not wearing masks.

Some businesses may still opt to require masks. But others, including retail giants Walmart, Costco and Trader Joe’s have said they will no longer require masks for fully vaccinated customers in states that have lifted mask mandates.

Sharp HealthCare sent an email to some patients, advising, “while the [CDC] announced new masking guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, these interim public health recommendations do not apply to health care settings. Face masks are still required at all Sharp HealthCare facilities, by order of the California Department of Public Health.”

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