As mask mandates relax in California, it is important to continue practices that make you and your community comfortable
Sometimes it’s hard to remember a time when we did not wear masks in populated spaces. With two years passed since the start of the pandemic, grabbing a mask on our way out the door has become a part of many of our daily routines.
This could soon change with California’s latest mask mandate revision. As of March 1, California no longer requires unvaccinated individuals to wear masks in indoor public settings. Additionally, by the end of the day on March 11, masks will no longer be required by the state of California in K-12 and childcare settings. The California Department of Public Health, however, still “strongly recommends” individuals to keep wearing masks in these indoor settings even when the universal requirement ends, regardless of vaccination status.
Yolo County is aligning with these guidelines, as the mask mandate at K-12 schools and childcare facilities will switch to a strong recommendation on March 12. But some other school districts have not followed suit: San Francisco public schools announced “no changes” to their indoor mask regulations for the month of March.
UC Davis announced this week that the indoor mask mandate will be lifted for “most indoor settings” on both the Davis and Sacramento campuses on March 19. To follow federal, state and local guidelines, masks will still be required on public transit and in clinical settings. Public health officials and UC Davis still “strongly recommended” wearing masks for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, and UC Davis has stated their support for anyone who wishes to continue masking indoors.
While the “maskne” benefits to ditching face coverings do sound enticing, some people are probably not quite ready to bare their naked faces once again in classrooms, grocery stores, gyms and other public places. Many have come to trust and find security in the protection that masks provide us — as proven by science.
When the majority of people in public settings are correctly and consistently wearing masks, the transmission of COVID-19 is slowed. Wearing masks, especially tight-fitting N95s and KN95s, reduces the chances of infection by 83%, according to a study published last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s these benefits that make some people — including members of the Editorial Board — hesitant to forgo masks in some situations, especially indoors.
Also, this isn’t the first time that mask requirements have been removed from most indoor settings. While it’s true that circumstances are different now, let’s not forget about June 2021 when California attempted to lift indoor mask mandates to allow its economy to fully reopen. Now, almost a year later, we all remember how that went: Cases surged over the summer. A universal indoor mask mandate was reinstated six months later in Dec. 2021 when a new, extremely transmissible variant emerged in California.
With that in mind, it’s reasonable to feel hesitant about removing masks right now. While we trust health officials to make the best decisions for the safety of the community at large, individuals can make their own decisions for when they are ready to remove their masks (while continuing to follow health guidelines, of course). And they should not feel judged by their decision to keep wearing masks in places they are no longer required. People’s comfort levels may differ, so remember not to judge others as long as they’re following guidelines.
It’s also necessary that people respect others around them. If businesses or schools are still requiring masks, people must still wear them. By entering public spaces, individuals are agreeing to whatever rules are set in place. But regardless of the regulations, we encourage everyone to be thoughtful of those around you. Even if masks are not required at a certain place, consider putting on a mask if those around you are uncomfortable by your lack of face covering.
Let’s not forget that masks are still strongly recommended in all indoor spaces. In the end, it’s your decision as to whether you feel comfortable taking off your mask inside, but don’t take this as a cue to make unsafe decisions. We must continue being considerate of everyone around us to ensure we all stay safe.
Written by: The Editorial Board
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its print publication on March 3 to reflect the update UC Davis released on March 2 regarding indoor mask rules.