Legal Update Memo No. 23-2021 – CDPH Increases its Masking Requirements for All Californians (K-12)

Download pdf: 23-2021 CDPH Increases its Masking Requirements for all Californians (JH)

In response to the Center for Disease Control’s (“CDC”) July 27, 2021 updated masking recommendations, which generally recommend wearing a mask indoors in public areas,[1] and the surge in Delta variant cases, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued updated “Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings” on July 28, 2021.[2] The primary updates were to require or recommend “universal” masking indoors statewide, regardless of vaccination status, and to reference new requirements for unvaccinated workers in high-risk settings, in the State Health Officer Order dated July 26, 2021.

The new requirements, for all Californians:

  • Unvaccinated persons are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings and businesses, including restaurants, governing board meetings, and state and local government offices serving the public. In such places, the venue host (including school districts), has the option to:
  1. Allow individuals to self-attest to being vaccinated;
  2. Implement vaccine verification; or
  3. Require all individuals to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
  • All individuals are required to wear masks (regardless of vaccination status) on public transit (including buses) and in transportation hubs; indoors in K-12 schools; indoors in childcare settings; and in healthcare settings.
  • Fully vaccinated people are recommended to wear masks in other indoor public settings.
  • Follow local health jurisdiction’s orders if they are more restrictive than this guidance. For example, Bay Area counties jointly announced on August 2 that they are requiring face coverings to be worn, regardless of vaccination status, in all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and workplaces.[3]

In workplaces, employees are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards, which already defer to separate CDPH guidance for youth settings such as K-12 schools.[4] In addition, employees in the health care and “congregate settings” (such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters), must wear masks and either confirm vaccination status or undergo weekly or bi-weekly testing.[5]

Exemptions: Children younger than two years old, persons with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, persons who are communicating with the hearing impaired, and persons for whom wearing a mask would create a work risk, as determined by workplace safety regulations, are exempt from the masking requirements.

Per the CDPH Guidance for K-12 schools issued July 12, and revised August 2, students are required to mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and adults are required to wear a mask when sharing indoor space with students.[6] The CDPH updated its separate Guidance for Child Care Providers and Programs on June 29, 2021, which now requires child care providers to comply with the above CDPH universal rules for face masks.[7]

The CDPH will separately issue guidance covering youth sports, and other youth activities such as band and drama.

Please contact our office with questions regarding this Legal Update or any other legal matter.


The information in this Legal Update is provided as a summary of law and is not intended as legal advice.  Application of the law may vary depending on the particular facts and circumstances at issue.  We, therefore, recommend that you consult legal counsel to advise you on how the law applies to your specific situation.

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[4] Although employees are subject to the mandatory Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”), which generally allow confirmed vaccinated employees to forego masking while at work, the ETS defers to CDPH guidance regarding youth settings, and excludes indoor public settings. (See our June 25, 2021 Legal Update regarding Cal/OSHA Regulations;

[5] State Public Health Officer Order of July 26, 2021:


See our July 21, 2021 Legal Update regarding the CDPH K-12 Guidance: