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: California to end strict indoor mask mandate Feb. 15 as COVID cases decline

California will end its strict indoor mask requirement next week, after seeing a sharp decrease in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

The state will no longer require fully vaccinated people to wear face masks in indoor public settings starting Feb. 15, the California Department of Public Health announced Monday. However, unvaccinated people will be asked to continue wearing masks indoors, and counties will have the option to continue their mask mandates. Los Angeles County, for example, has said it will keep its mask mandate intact until certain health metrics, such as hospitalization rates, are met.

Masks will still be required on public transit, per federal regulations, and in K-12 schools. The agency said additional adjustments will be announced in the coming week.

“Omicron has loosened its hold on California, vaccines for children under 5 are around the corner, and access to COVID-19 treatments is improving,” CDPH Director Dr. Tomás J. Aragón said in a statement. “With things moving in the right direction, we are making responsible modifications to COVID-19 prevention measures, while also continuing to develop a longer-term action plan for the state.”

The statewide mask mandate was reinstituted in mid-December as the omicron variant drove a surge in new coronavirus cases. COVID cases in California have dropped 65% since peaking in early January, and hospitalizations are plateauing or declining in most part of the state, the agency said.

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