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Pandemic milestone: California eases its face mask guidelines

California's COVID rules ease up starting Friday
California's COVID rules ease up starting Friday 00:32

More than two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, California is finally easing some safety guidelines that were put in place to help limit the spread of the virus.

The new guidelines released Tuesday shifts away from a strong recommendation for mask wearing for the general population in all indoor settings at all time, which the California Department of Public Health says is consistent with recommendations made by the CDC last month. Masks will also become optional in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers when community spread is low.

The new guidelines go into effect Friday.

"This shift in masking is consistent with California's SMARTER Plan and gives Californians the information they should consider when deciding when to wear a mask, including the rate of spread in the community and personal risk," Dr. Tomas Aragon, the state's public health officer and director of the Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

Masks will still be required in health care and long-term care settings. Californians who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions were still urged to take extra COVID-19 precautions. And while mask mandates are changing, the Department of Public Health says businesses and schools must still allow people to wear a mask if they want to.

The change comes as LAX is moving its on-site COVID-19 test lab this weekend due to reduced demand.

"After nearly two years, more than 355,000 completed tests, the LAX on-site COVID-19 test lab will close Sunday. Our partners will move the lab to another location, demand for tests at LAX has been greatly reduced," LAX officials tweeted.

COVID cases have been trending downward across the state, reflecting an overall decrease in transmission and infections. In Los Angeles County, officials say about 43% of patients with COVID were actually hospitalized due to virus-related illnesses, while the rest have been admitted for other reasons and only found out they were infected when they were tested upon admission.

As of Thursday, masks were still a requirement on public transit in Los Angeles County, but with the county's seven-day average new case rate on the verge of falling below 100 per 100,000 residents, public health officials announced that the mandate was set to be lifted as early as Friday.

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