What to Know About Mask Rules in California

Friday: Vaccinated Californians will mostly be able to go mask-free. But there’s still some confusion. Also: News about California Today.

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Grand Central Market in Los Angeles this week.Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

Good morning.

Mask or no mask? That is — somehow still — the question.

This week, state officials announced that California remained on track for its grand reopening, which is set for Tuesday. Coronavirus case rates are among the nation’s lowest and vaccination rates are higher than in other large states.

As Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Thursday, Californians can “look forward to getting back to some semblance of normalcy.”

That means patrons and business operators won’t have to worry about physical distancing or capacity restrictions inside bars, restaurants, stores, offices or essentially anywhere else.

But whether you’ll have to mask up before you enter is still a bit unsettled.

Here’s what we do know: Vaccinated Californians will be able to go mask-free in most indoor settings starting Tuesday.

The new rules are meant to align with federal guidance, state officials said, and face coverings will still be required on public transportation and in taxis, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. Masks will also be required indoors at K-12 schools, child care facilities and other places where there may be a large number of children who haven’t yet been vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people will have to keep wearing masks indoors, although the state — as throughout the pandemic — is maintaining a light touch with enforcement and is not requiring businesses to verify whether patrons are vaccinated. (They can be as strict as they choose.)

What we don’t know now is whether workers will be required to wear masks on the job and under what circumstances.

On Wednesday, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to withdraw its updated rules and instead review the state’s new guidelines before voting on new ones as early as next week. (Remember everything we told you on Tuesday about vaccinated workers having to wear a mask if one person in the room is unvaccinated? Forget that.)

But then, in a news conference on Thursday, Newsom said he’d be making additional announcements about mask rules and reopening today. So stay tuned.

For more:

See the department of public health’s full mask guidance here.

Yes, your employer can require you to get vaccinated. Read about why.

Catch up on the C.D.C.’s mask guidance.

Here’s what else to know today

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AR-15-style rifles for sale at Firearms Unknown in Oceanside.Credit…Bing Guan/Reuters

Compiled by Jonathan Wolfe

Attorney General Rob Bonta appealed a federal-court decision that overturned the state’s assault weapons ban, The Los Angeles Times reports.

A special election to recall Governor Newsom will cost the state more than $215 million, state finance officials said Thursday.

A report showing that the richest Americans, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett, pay almost no taxes has refocused attention on the tax code.

Legislators are deciding this week whether to continue a $650 million a year pandemic program to provide free meals for public school students, CalMatters reports.

Uber drivers are not getting a cut of the fare hike, which some say deprives them of hundreds of dollars a week, The Washington Post reports.

California lawmakers reproached Vice President Kamala Harris for her recent “do not come” message to Central American migrants, Politico reports.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva of Los Angeles County has promised to handle the homelessness issue in Venice, and sent a team of deputies to the boardwalk this week. But The Los Angeles Times asks, “Is he overstepping his authority?

State authorities rescued a man who was trapped for two days inside a giant fan at a vineyard in Sonoma County, KCRA reports.

Did you win $50,000? The state is still looking for two winners of the vaccine lottery that have not claimed their prizes, Fox 11 reports.

And finally …

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The beach at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego in December 2020.Credit…Ariana Drehsler for The New York Times

Like the strange, beautiful state we cover, this newsletter is in a period of transition. Next month, Soumya Karlamangla will take over as the lead writer of California Today. (I won’t be going far: I’ll still be covering California for The Times based in Los Angeles, and you’ll see me back in your inbox from time to time.)

Our editor, the inimitable Julie Bloom, is also handing the reins to Manny Fernandez, The Times’s Los Angeles bureau chief, as her role on the National desk expands.

We’re so grateful for Julie’s leadership and work shaping California Today over the past four years. As we bid her farewell, we asked her to share a little about the experience.

Do you remember the first California Today that you edited? What were the big stories in the state at the time?

The first edition published on Sept. 6, 2016, with a call to readers to tell us about the issues they cared most about and wanted us to cover. Wildfires, housing and ballot measures were all top of mind — issues that are still extremely relevant today.

The idea was to hear from and speak to readers more directly, and to use all the incredible expertise of our reporters in California to help keep them informed. We also wanted to highlight local journalism across the state at a time when many outlets were under threat. My favorite early editions relied a lot on our readers, they helped us report out the terrible Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire, shared opinions about the midterms and gave us tips about where to find hidden gems like this one from a reader in Napa:

“Everyone comes to the Napa Valley for the wine. Only a handful of people know about Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Hiking is wonderful and the first mile, in a beautiful shady forest, ends at a plaque commemorating the site of the cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new wife, Franny, in 1880.”

— Kathie Fowler, Napa

What do you think has changed the most about the state since then?

Looking back it’s incredible to see how much hasn’t changed. Our first several editions were all about wildfires. We spent a big part of a year focused on homelessness and how the conditions in camps in Oakland resemble those in the developing world. The wealth divide has been a consistent theme and it seems only to have gotten starker.

In the past year, it’s been remarkable to see how Californians have come together to fight the pandemic and it’s reassuring to see how well the state is doing now. But it also feels like many problems have only gotten worse. I know people who are considering moving because they don’t want to risk losing their house to yet another fire.

As my colleague Adam Nagourney said, “The sense of California exceptionalism — of why would anyone live anywhere else — is not as strong as it once was.” And as Conor Dougherty points out, in the past few years there has been a pretty collective recognition that the current path is unsustainable and we need a serious course correction, but as always there is little agreement over exactly what to do.

You’ll still be helping to guide California coverage in your new role, but is there anything you particularly want to keep reading about, as a Californian yourself?

I’m fascinated by the ever-changing politics of the state: Just when you think you know the way things are going, Californians will surprise you. The demographics continue to shift with complex and interesting implications, and I’m curious to see how the inevitable generational changes in leadership in the state play out. Who will emerge and how will they influence the national political landscape?

Any advice for Manny?

Get on the road! And see as much of the state as possible. It will feed ideas, and having grown up near the beach, I can say with authority that nothing will improve a day like gazing at the Pacific.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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