SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — California is likely to have “guidelines and mandates” for wearing masks indoors after the state fully reopens next month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, appearing to walk back comments from the previous day that indicated masks would be gone in nearly all situations.
California’s mask requirements took effect in June 2020. Last month, Newsom announced he would lift most restrictions on business and activities on June 15 if the state’s coronavirus cases remained low but said masks orders would stay in effect.READ MORE: 1 Dead, 2 Injured In Separate Falls During Phish Concert At Chase Center
Then, in an interview Tuesday, he said California once the state fully reopens it will look “a lot like the world we entered into before the pandemic.”
“We’re not wearing face coverings. We’re not restricted in any way, shape or form from doing the old things that we used to do, save for huge, large-scale indoor convention events like that, where we use our common sense,” Newsom said in an interview with Fox 11 in Los Angeles, adding there will be “no mandates” and “no restrictions on businesses large and small.”
A day later, while touting billions more for K-12 education in Monterey, he altered his words, saying the state “will still have likely some mask guidelines and mandates” for indoor activities.
“But we hope sooner than later, that those will be lifted as well,” he said. “The bottom line is, we’ll go back to most broad strokes semblance of normalcy, if we continue down this path.”
California now requires people to wear a mask when gathering indoors with people who are not vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people can meet indoors without wearing a mask. They also don’t have to wear a mask outdoors, except when attending large gatherings such as sporting events, festivals and concerts.
California has a host of other rules for businesses and other public places. Those rules vary by county, with the more severe restrictions imposed on places where the virus is most widespread.
Newsom has been under pressure to relax coronavirus restrictions as the number of new cases decline. He will likely face a recall election later this year, an effort fueled mostly by anger over his handling of the pandemic.
“I got a bunch of friends that are completely convinced this is a government conspiracy,” said Concord resident Scott Smith, laughing. Smith told KPIX 5 he doesn’t mind wearing a mask but isn’t surprised the mandate might be lifted. And he thinks he knows why.
“I think it’s political,” he said. “I think Newsom’s trying to save his butt. He’s wanting to get rid of it because there’s a lot of people pissed off about the masks.”
At Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza on Wednesday, there was an even split of people with masks and those without. But while things have clearly been loosening up in recent days, many people still found Newsom’s comments on masks to be a bit abrupt.READ MORE: Giants Plan To Exercise Buster Posey's $22 Million Club Option If He Plays Next Year
“Yeah, I think it’s a bit fast,” said Liza Baskir. “From what had happened before to all of sudden just be like, oh yeah, that’ll be lifted. I think it’s a bit quick.”
“Yeah, I fully planned for it to go at least a year, longer,” said Carroll Beard.
Newsom’s comments on Tuesday and his remarks on Wednesday seemed to conflict with what the state has planned for mask mandates. Just two months ago, Newsom criticized Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for lifting that state’s mask mandate, calling it “ absolutely reckless.”
Meanwhile, a state board that sets rules for workplaces is considering changing its mask rules later this month. Those proposed rules would not require people to wear masks indoors if all workers are fully vaccinated and no one has coronavirus symptoms, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Asked to clarify Newsom’s comments, Ali Bay, spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health, said the state will “continue to update face coverings guidance as appropriate, with the goal of continuing to loosen restrictions as more people get vaccinated.” She urged Californians to continue to follow the state’s current mask guidelines.
Not all health officials think lifting mask mandates is happening too fast. On CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said it’s important for the government to be willing to lift the mandates to maintain their own credibility.
“I think we need to start lifting these things as the situation improves,” he said, “also, to demonstrate that we can do that and that we maintain our integrity and our ability to re-implement these things when we have to.”
The rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in California is just 1.1%, the lowest in the nation. More than 14.6 million people are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and another 5.1 million are partially vaccinated.
Still, some public health experts say it’s smart to wear masks in public places.
“I can’t imagine completely abandoning all masking,” said Dr. Brad Pollock, associate dean for public health sciences at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. “If we have no COVID left in the community, that’s one thing. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”MORE NEWS: Santa Rosa Man Sentenced To 16 Years In Prison After 65 Pounds Of Meth Found At His Home
© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.