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Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here, thinking about masks. It seems to me that just as we were getting used to some of the novel social dynamics of masking, we’re now starting to contemplate the challenge of getting used to unmasking (for those among us who are vaccinated, at least). 

On May 13, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control updated its Covid-19 masking guidance and announced that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks. This headline-making pronouncement was quickly followed by the caveat that masking still might be required by “federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

In California that primarily means people are still subject to the state Department of Public Health’s mask mandate, which requires masking for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in most public settings. On Monday, May 17, California Health and Human Service Secretary Mark Ghaly said the state will keep its mask mandate in place until June 15—the date state leadership has set for full business reopening. 

Waiting a month to align with federal guidelines (as well as a number of other states that have already dropped their mask mandates) will give Californians time to “prepare,” Ghaly said. A key component of this is getting more of the population vaccinated. But different guidelines at the federal and state level create some confusion.

It’s understandable that people might be confused, Monterey County Health Department spokesperson Karen Smith says. From the health department side, they will attempt to assuage this by continuing to remind people that California’s rules are separate from the CDC recommendation. “Don’t drop your mask yet!” a cheerful graphic tweeted on May 15 by the Monterey County Health Department implores. “Monterey County is still under state masking guidelines.”

During his weekly presentation to the Board of Supervisors earlier today, Health Officer Edward Moreno did allude to the CDC’s announcement, but only to reiterate Monterey County’s intention to follow California’s requirements. That means those of us who live, work in or visit Monterey County, vaccinated or not, are still required to wear a mask while out and about in most public situations. Moreno recommended that people read CDPH’s latest guidance; then call the county Covid call center with any additional questions

The idea of resuming a mask-free life is exciting (if, yes, a little nerve-wracking) to me. I imagine it is to many of you, also. But as has been the case with other aspects of the pandemic, it won’t happen all at once. There will be state guidelines, business-by-business (or circumstance-by-circumstance) rules and then there will be what each of us is ultimately comfortable with. Maybe we’ll wear masks seasonally moving forward! It’s all going to take some getting used to. 

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