California Reinstates Statewide Indoor Mask Mandate in All Public Places Regardless of Vaccination Status

By Brooke Tabshouri

The California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) has announced that beginning this Wednesday, December 15, California will reinstate its statewide indoor mask mandate for all people of all ages in all public places regardless of vaccination status.  The order is being issued in response to a spike in COVID cases in the last few weeks; cases have increased by nearly 50% since Thanksgiving.

By way of background, the state lifted its prior mask mandate on June 15, along with the lifting of business restrictions and industry guidance.  Despite this, some mask mandates have remained:

      • The Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (“Cal/OSHA ETS”) continue to require that masks be worn indoors in workplaces by unvaccinated employees.
      • A number of counties, including LA, Sacramento, and most of the Bay Area, have implemented local mask mandates since June.
      • Masks have remained required in particular types of indoor spaces in all parts of California, such as healthcare settings, public transportation, detention facilities, airports, and K-12 schools.

The order specifically prohibits businesses from denying entry to patrons or employees who are wearing a mask.  Religious exemptions from mask-wearing have not been available under prior state mask mandates, and that appears to be the case with this one as well.  The Cal/OSHA ETS further state that employers must follow all CDPH orders, which presumably will include this one as well.  “Indoor public place” typically covers all indoor places that are not private residences.

The new order is intended to remain in effect until January 15, 2022.  This date could, of course, change with the situation.