Coronavirus latest: California to delay adoption of CDC’s new mask guidance

California will hold off on adopting recently updated guidance from the top US public health agency on the use of face masks by fully vaccinated people.

The adoption of new guidelines, announced last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be delayed until June 15, Mark Ghaly, the state’s health director, said during a call with reporters on Monday. 

That will give businesses time to make necessary adjustments and allow more people to get vaccinated, he said, and coincide with the date Governor Gavin Newsom has targeted for lifting nearly all of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

Since the CDC said on May 13 that it was safe for fully vaccinated people to forgo masks in almost all indoor and outdoor settings, governors have taken different approaches to the guidance. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Monday that the mask mandate for outdoor public spaces (when physical distancing is not possible) will be lifted effective immediately. A requirement for face coverings in indoor public spaces will remain in effect, but Murphy said this was likely to be dropped in the “not so distant future”.

Neighbouring New York will adopt the CDC’s new mask guidance from May 19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced earlier today, although private businesses and venues would be allowed to make their own rules. That coincides with the date most coronavirus restrictions in the tri-state area (Connecticut, New Jersey and New York) are set to be lifted, but Cuomo had acknowledged previously the states would not have identical policies “because we are in slightly different situations”.

Pennsylvania said last Friday it, too, would allow businesses to maintain the option to require fully vaccinated individuals to wear face coverings, but unvaccinated residents will still need to comply with the statewide mask mandate, which will only be lifted once 70 per cent of Pennsylvanian adults are fully vaccinated.

Other states moved quickly to adopt the CDC guidance. Colorado last week dropped its statewide mask mandates, bringing it closer in line with the likes of Texas, which dropped its requirement for face coverings in March.

Colorado has averaged about 22 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people a day over the past week, the highest rate among US states, according to CDC data. California, where officials will wait before loosening mask orders, has brought its per capita seven-day average down to just under four a day, the third-lowest rate in the country.

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