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State of California—Health and Human Services Agency
California Department of Public Health

March 14, 2022

All Californians

Guidance for the Use of Face Masks

​Note: This Guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.

​​Guidance For the Use of Masks


California has used science to guide our health protection strategies throughout the pandemic. Data show that because of these strategies, we have saved lives.  COVID-19 cases and hospitalization continue to decline across the state.  Since February 14, cases have declined by 66% and hospitalizations have declined by 48%.  This is due in large part to the collective efforts of Californians to get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear masks indoors.

A universal indoor masking requirement was reinstated on December 15, 2021, to add a layer of mitigation as the Omicron variant, a Variant of Concern as labeled by the World Health Organization, increased in prevalence across California, the United States, and the world and spread much more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant.  Implementing the universal masking requirement in all indoor public settings during the winter season was an important tool to decrease community transmission and protect critical healthcare system capacity during the highly infectious Omicron surge. Since the peak in case rates during the Omicron surge in early January 2022, the dramatic surge in cases and hospitalizations due to the highly infectious Omicron variant over the last two months has declined significantly.  Californians have also become increasingly knowledgeable about how to protect themselves and their loved ones with effective masks when there may be risk of COVID-19 exposure or transmission.  Accordingly, CDPH amended this masking guidance to allow the universal indoor masking requirement to expire on February 15, 2022 as scheduled.

The COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in preventing serious disease, hospitalization, and death from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Vaccination continues to remain the ultimate exit strategy out of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the percentage of Californians fully vaccinated and boosted continues to increase, we continue to have areas of the state where vaccine coverage is low, putting individuals and communities at greater risk for COVID-19.  As a state, we need to remain vigilant. 

Accordingly, effective March 1, 2022, the requirement for unvaccinated persons to mask in indoor public settings and businesses is being replaced by a strong recommendation that all persons, regardless of vaccination status, continue to mask while in indoor public settings and businesses.    

As we've shown in our SMARTER Plan, masks, especially those that offer the best fit and filtration (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s), remain a critical component of our multi-layered approach for protection against COVID-19 infection.  A series of cross-sectional surveys in the U.S. suggested that a 10% increase in self-reported mask wearing tripled the likelihood of slowing community transmission.[1]  Our recently published case-control study conducted in California from February 18 to December 1, 2021 demonstrated that consistently wearing a face mask or respirator in indoor public settings reduces the risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection. [2].  Masks also remain a critical component for protecting those that are most vulnerable in our communities, including the unvaccinated, the immunocompromised, or those at risk for severe disease and illness. 

Throughout this pandemic, the masking requirement in California schools has allowed us to keep schools open when compared to other parts of the country. California accounts for roughly 12% of all U.S. students, but accounted for only 1% of COVID-19 related school closures during the Omicron surge. Nationally during the Delta surge in July and August 2021, jurisdictions without mask requirements in schools experienced larger increases in pediatric case rates, and school outbreaks were 3.5 times more likely in areas without school mask requirements.[3][4].  Current projections show that statewide, the declines we are seeing in cases and hospitalizations will continue.  Accordingly, after March 11, 2022, the universal masking requirement for K-12 and Childcare settings will terminate.  CDPH strongly recommends that individuals in these settings continue to mask in indoor settings when the universal masking requirement lifts.  Masking will continue to be an important layer of protection along with the continued recommendations around vaccinations, testing and ventilation, to keep schools a safe environment, even as case rates and hospitalizations decline. 

CDPH is maintaining the masking requirements in specified high-risk settings, consistent with CDC recommendations.  This allows us to continue protecting our most vulnerable populations and the workforce that delivers critical services in these settings. 

Finally, CDPH is maintaining the requirement that businesses and venue operators, including K-12 school and childcare settings, must allow any individual to wear a mask if they desire to.

In workplaces, employers are subject to the CalOSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) or in some workplaces the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard and should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements. 

Local health jurisdictions and entities may continue to implement additional requirements that go beyond this statewide guidance based on local circumstances. 

These requirements and recommendations will continue to be updated as CDPH continues to assess conditions on an ongoing basis.

Masking Requirements 

Masking guidance requirements in different settings

Masks are required for all individuals in the following indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. Surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit are highly recommended.

*After March 11, the universal masking requirement for K-12 and Childcare settings will terminate.  CDPH strongly recommends that individuals in these settings continue to mask in indoor settings when the universal masking requirement lifts.  For additional information on types of masks for children, the most effective masks, and ensuring a well-fitted mask, individuals should refer to CDPH Masks for Kids: Tips and Resources

**In certain healthcare situations or settings surgical masks are required. See State Health Officer Order, issued on July 26, 2021, for a full list of high-risk congregate and other specifically enumerated healthcare settings where surgical masks are required for unvaccinated workers. The Order also includes recommendations for respirator use for unvaccinated workers in healthcare and long-term care facilities in situations or settings not covered by Cal/OSHA ETS or ATD.

Additionally, masks are  strongly recommended for all persons, regardless of vaccine status, in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public). Surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit are highly recommended.

For additional information on types of masks, the most effective masks, and ensuring a well-fitted mask, individuals should refer to CDPH Get the Most out of Masking and see CDPH Masking Guidance Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Guidance for Businesses, Venue Operators or Hosts 

In settings where masks are strongly recommended, businesses, venue operators or hosts should consider:

  • Providing information to all patrons, guests and attendees regarding masking recommendations for all persons, regardless of vaccine status.

  • Providing information to all patrons, guests and attendees to consider better fit and filtration for masks [Surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit are recommended over cloth masks].

  • Requiring all patrons to wear masks, especially when risk in the community may be high, or if those being served are at high-risk for severe disease or illness.

  • Requiring attendees who do not provide proof of vaccination to enter indoor Mega Events to continue masking during the event, especially when not actively eating or drinking. 

No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

Exemptions to masks requirements 

The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

  • Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.

  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.

  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

  • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.


[1] Rader B, White LF, Burns MR, et al. Mask-wearing and control of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the USA: a cross-sectional study. The Lancet Digital Health. 2021;3(3):e148–e157.

[2] Andrejko KL, Pry JM, Myers JF, et al. Effectiveness of Face Mask or Respirator Use in Indoor Public Settings for Prevention of SARS-CoV-2 Infection — California, February–December 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 4 February 2022

[3] Jehn M, McCullough JM, Dale AP, Gue M, Eller B, Cullen T, Scott SE. Association between K–12 school mask policies and school-associated COVID-19 outbreaks — Maricopa and Pima Counties, Arizona, July–August 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021; 70(39);1372–1373.

[4] Budzyn SE, Panaggio MJ, Parks SE, Papazian M, Magid J, Eng M, Barrios LC. Pediatric COVID-19 cases in counties with and without school mask requirements — United States, July 1–September 4, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021; 70(39);1377–1378.

[5] CDC Requirement for Face Masks on Public Transportation Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs

[6] CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools

[7] CDC COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs

[8] CDC's Interim Guidance for General Population Disaster Shelters During the COVID-19 Pandemic

[9] CDC COVID-19 and Cooling Centers

[10] CDC Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic

[11] CDC Interim Guidance on Management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Correctional and Detention Facilities

[12] CDC Interim Guidance for Homeless Service Providers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

[13] CDC Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities