To mask or not to mask? That is the question.
We’re in a particularly confusing moment of the pandemic, when most Americans are vaccinated or have already had Covid-19 and an especially contagious variant of the coronavirus is spreading nationwide. And in this latest difficult-to-navigate phase, rules about masking seem to shift hourly and differ from town to town.
A Florida judge last week struck down a national mask mandate for public transit, in opposition of C.D.C. recommendations. Philadelphia lifted its indoor mask mandate on Friday, four days after instating it. Meanwhile, at least a dozen universities are reintroducing mask mandates this week.
If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Given the uncertainty, The New York Times published a guide to the latest masking science, which includes advice from experts about when it makes the most sense to mask up.
“This is the hardest thing of all because it’s not just the risks and benefits to you,” Dr. Robert Wachter, a professor and the chair of the medicine department at the University of California, San Francisco, told my colleagues. “It’s the risks and benefits to the people around you.”
California officials lifted our statewide indoor mask mandate in February. The state’s school mask requirement ended in March, with many large school districts following suit in April. Last week, in alignment with federal guidance, the state called off mandatory masking on buses and trains.
Though California officials still strongly recommend that you wear a mask in indoor public settings, this is, as far as rules go, the most unmasked we’ve been since the pandemic began. And despite a recent rise in coronavirus cases, it seems unlikely that the state is going to hand down additional mandates anytime soon.
Still, there are a few places in the Golden State where you must keep a face covering on, whether or not you’re vaccinated. Everywhere in California, you are required to wear a mask in the following places that are considered high risk for coronavirus transmission:
Health care settings, such as hospitals and doctor’s offices
Emergency shelters and cooling centers
Jails and prisons
Long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
The only people exempted from these rules are children under 2 and people with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask or being able to communicate while wearing a mask, according to state guidelines.
For most Californians, that’s everything you need to know about masking rules. Unless you live in Los Angeles County.
In Los Angeles County, home to one in four Californians, masks are still required on all public transit and transportation hubs, including airports, buses and ride shares, officials announced late last week.
The order, which went into effect on Friday, comes as cases have risen in the county by nearly 70 percent over the past month, according to the New York Times tracker. Officials will reassess the order in 30 days or if transmission rates fall significantly before then.
The county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, put it this way: “While many of us would like to be at a place where masking is no longer necessary, with substantial transmission and a more infectious variant, one of the easiest things we can do to prevent infection is to wear a well-fitting mask.”
What you get
For $2.2 million: A Spanish-style home in Los Angeles, a three-bedroom condominium in San Francisco and a midcentury ranch house in Kentfield.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Rod Tompkins, who lives in Pasadena:
“A favorite place of mine to visit is the Mount Wilson Observatory above Pasadena. If you can stomach the curvy road up the mountain, you may stand in the exact spot where the Big Bang theory was hatched — the astronomical event, not the TV show — at Caltech below. The antenna farm is a hoot and on weekends there’s a sandwich shop with a great lookout where you can also picnic anytime if you bring your own.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
In 2003, Lindsey Madison Ward and Michael Taylor Richardson were both at a pool party before their first year of middle school at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles.
Ward noticed the System of a Down band T-shirt that Richardson was wearing, and went over to introduce herself. She too was a fan of the metal band.
Nineteen years later, Ward and Richardson got married. Read their love story in The Times.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Country that shares an island with the Dominican Republic (5 letters).
Briana Scalia and Jack Kramer contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.