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Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Jack Finnigan

California won’t require you to wear a mask in some outdoor settings anymore

The state announced it would align with the CDC’s new guidance, which eases restrictions mostly for vaccinated people.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

Time to restart that skincare regimen and show your face a bit more: California will be adopting new Centers for Disease Control guidelines announced on Tuesday that say fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most uncrowded outdoor settings.

“We have reviewed and support the CDC’s new masking recommendations and are working quickly to align California’s guidance with these common sense updates,” said California Department of Public Health director Dr. Tomás Aragón in a statement.

On Thursday afternoon, L.A. County said that it would be updating its health officer order later that day to fully align with the CDC suggestions. “If you’re fully vaccinated and you’re walking solo, there’s no reason for you to mask up,” L.A. County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. “But if you’re walking down a crowded promenade… we do ask that you keep your mask on in those situations.”

The new guidance is unfortunately a bit more complicated than “you don’t need one outside, period,” but the CDC’s color-coded charts do a decent job of sorting things out.

CDC mask guidelines
Courtesy CDC

Whether or not you’ve been vaccinated, the CDC now says that when walking, running or biking outdoors with members of your own household there’s no need to wear a mask. This has more or less been the case with L.A. County’s mask mandate for a while, that you need to have a mask with you at all times but only wearing it when you’re likely to come into contact with people.

If you’re attending a small outdoor gathering with friends and family, then you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re vaccinated—but those who are unvaccinated should still wear one. That’s also true for outdoor dining, with the added note that the CDC still considers outdoor dining for masked but unvaccinated people “less safe.” However, the county says that you should still wear a mask at businesses (though its restaurant guidance has yet to be update, this seems to imply that you’ll still want to bring a mask along to a restaurant).

No matter your vax status, though, the guidance still calls for mask wearing at crowded outdoor events like concerts and sporting events. (We imagine this will likely apply locally to settings like theme parks, too.)

There’s sure to be some confusion following the new guidelines. With so many SoCal landmarks occupying indoor-outdoor spaces, will we need to be constantly taking our masks on and off, say when visiting a museum campus? Or will certain businesses still stick with an always-on mask policy for now? We’ll have to see how this shakes out as businesses adapt to the new rules.

The CDC has also laid out which indoor activities it deems more and less safe depending on whether you’ve been vaccinated. You’ll still need to wear a mask when going to a hair salon or a movie theater, and the CDC considers these “less safe” and “least safe,” respectively, for unvaccinated folks; for vaccinated people, they’re all considered “safe.”

CDC mask guidelines
Courtesy CDC
CDC mask guidelines
Courtesy CDC

While the bulk of California’s mask mandate is still sticking around for now (and likely even after the state’s full reopening in June), the new guidelines do mark a pretty major shift for Angelenos. A statewide mask mandate has been in effect since June 2020, but L.A. began recommending masks in public as far back as early April, with a shift toward it becoming mandatory in mid-May.

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