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Face coverings are not required outdoors except at crowded events. File photo
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San Diego County to wait until June 15 to ditch COVID-19 mask requirement

REGION — San Diego County will follow the state’s lead and wait until June 15 to align with federal guidance that no longer requires people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear face coverings, county officials said today.

The June date is when state officials are expected to lift most virus-related restrictions if current positive trends continue.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher confirmed the decision to adhere to the state’s guidance.

“San Diego County is aligned with the California Department of Public Health and will wait until June 15 to adopt CDC mask guidance,” Fletcher said. “This short time frame allows us to ensure everyone has access to the vaccine and time for business and entities across our county to prepare for the change.

“There is significant planning already associated with the June 15 movement “beyond the blueprint” and this change will align well with those efforts,” he continued. “Our careful posture during the pandemic has resulted in a low positivity rate and one of the lowest death rates; continuing the mask requirements for a few more weeks provides an added layer of protection as we work on getting more San Diegans vaccinated. Masks definitely help more than they hurt.”

The local statements were prompted by an earlier announcement Monday from Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services secretary.

“On June 15, California plans to implement the CDC’s guidelines around masking to allow fully vaccinated Californians to go without a mask in most indoor settings. This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change while we continue our relentless focus on delivering vaccines, particularly in underserved communities,” Ghaly said.

“We urge all Californians to get vaccinated to ensure that infection and hospitalization rates remain low across the state and that we can all return to the activities we love,” he added.

Face coverings are not required outdoors except at crowded events, and — for unvaccinated people — when physical distancing cannot be maintained. In indoor settings outside the home including public transportation and schools, face coverings continue to be required regardless of vaccination status.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance, saying that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can largely stop wearing a mask in most indoor and outdoor situations.

That announcement, however, did not immediately reverse existing mask-wearing requirements in San Diego County or in California as a whole.

San Diego County requirements allow fully vaccinated residents to shed masks while indoors with other fully vaccinated people. But mask mandates remain in place for everyone working at or patronizing businesses — such as grocery stores or retail shops.

The revised CDC guidance was announced in response to repeated studies showing the effectiveness of the vaccines, offering people who have been inoculated a great deal of protection against infection or severe illness if they are infected.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

The new CDC guidance does not completely drop mask recommendations for vaccinated people. Face coverings are still recommended in some settings — such as aboard planes and buses or in crowded settings such as hospitals.

Supermarket chains including Trader Joe’s, Costco and Walmart on Friday dropped the mask requirement for fully vaccinated customers, though store officials said they will not be asking for proof of vaccination.