EMS Staff Reporter
Photo Credit: Anna Shvets / Pexels

Effective mask wearing is still an essential tool in California’s fight against COVID-19. The California Department of Public Health recently released new guidelines on mask wearing, urging Californians to consider wearing a mask based on their location and situation.

The state released a new masking guidance on Sept. 20 to outline for Californians what to consider when deciding when to wear a mask, using federal community COVID-19 levels as a guide.

In communities where COVID-19 levels remain high, the CDPH recommends everyone wear a mask in crowded indoor settings. Californians can find their county’s COVID levels using this CDPH database.

Californians can also sign up for CA Notify to receive alerts on their phone when they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

Those who have been exposed should wear a mask for 10 days and should take a COVID-19 test. Masks that offer the best fit and filtration — including N95s, KN95s, and KF94s — are highly recommended, and remain a critical component for protection against COVID-19 infection.

To streamline its guidance, the state provided information for each of three levels of community case rates:

  • When community levels are low, state public health officials advise those at lower risk for severe illness to wear a mask based on their personal preference and individual level of risk. Those at higher risk for severe illness should consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor public places.
  • When community levels are medium, state health officials advise those at lower risk for severe illness to consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor public places. Wearing a mask is recommended in crowded indoor public places for those at higher risk for severe illness.
  • When community levels are high, health officials recommend all those at lower risk of severe illness wear a mask in crowded indoor public places and strongly recommends those at higher risk for severe illness to wear a mask in indoor public places.

Mask requirements remain in place for certain high-risk settings, such as in health care and long-term care settings. The state’s updated guidance allows certain congregate settings, including correctional facilities, homeless and emergency shelters, and cooling centers to make masks optional when community COVID-19 levels are low.

Local health jurisdictions may have additional requirements beyond the state guidance so stay informed on case rates in your area by checking local community levels.

Californians at higher risk for severe illness include people who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised, have certain disabilities or underlying health conditions. They should take extra COVID-19 precautions to avoid severe illness.

At all COVID-19 community levels, state public health officials continue to strongly recommend that all people:

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, including all primary series doses and boosters which have been updated to strengthen protection against the original coronavirus strain while also targeting the dominant Omicron subvariants.
  • Wear a mask for 10 days after exposure to COVID-19.
  • Stay home when sick and know what to do if you have been infected with COVID-19, including seeking treatment early.
  • Test if you are sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Improve ventilation and air quality when possible.
  • Wash hands regularly.

As scientists learn more about the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on individuals and society, taking critical steps like vaccinating, boosting, testing and masking in high-risk situations can help protect your immediate and long-term health. All Californians, regardless of vaccination status, can follow these key safety basics to protect ourselves and each other from the worst outcomes of COVID-19.

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