Health care, nursing facilities won’t require masks under new COVID guidelines

Patients and hospital staff wear masks outside Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center on Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

California will draw down several COVID-19-related guidelines next month as the state shifts out of its emergency response to the pandemic, state health officials said.

Starting April 3, the state will no longer require the use of a mask in indoor areas that are deemed a high risk of transmission, including health care and long-term care facilities, homeless shelters and jails and prisons.

The state will also end its COVID vaccination requirement for health care workers and rescind health orders that required hospitals to accept patients from overcrowded facilities and that required the collection of an email address or phone number from a COVID vaccine recipient.

“We stand before Californians today with a humble message of thanks for taking the hard steps to help manage COVID-19, and with an ongoing commitment to be prepared for what comes next,” California Department of Public Health Director and state Public Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon said in a statement Friday.

In addition to the changes on April 2, the state will update its isolation guidance on March 13 for those who test positive for COVID, allowing them to leave isolation after five days if their condition is improving and if they have not had a fever in at least 24 hours.

People who isolate after testing positive will no longer have to test negative for COVID before leaving isolation, according to the CDPH. The change is consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The changes are part of the state’s drawdown of its emergency response infrastructure in recent weeks.

State-operated COVID testing and vaccination clinics have shuttered as those services shift to primary health care providers and retail pharmacies.

On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom also rescinded California’s COVID-19 state of emergency, which allowed local governments and the state to more efficiently coordinate public health programs and disperse emergency funding.

State public health officials continue to urge California residents to complete their initial COVID vaccination series if they have yet to do so and, if eligible, receive a booster vaccine dose to reduce the chance of becoming seriously ill or dying due to the virus.

As of March 2, 88.2 million COVID vaccine doses have been administered statewide. Roughly 73 percent of state residents have completed their initial vaccination series.

“Our communities did a lot of the hard work by getting vaccinated and boosted, staying home and testing when sick, requesting treatments when positive, and masking to slow the spread,” Aragon said. “With these critical actions, and a lot of patience and persistence, we have now reached a point where we can update some of the COVID-19 guidance to continue to balance prevention and adapting to living with COVID-19.”

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