Newsom says indoor mask mandate may not lift June 15, but experts say it will soon be safe to do so

Liz Kreutz Image
ByLiz Kreutz KGO logo
Thursday, May 13, 2021
Newsom clarifies indoor mask mandate may not lift June 15
Governor Gavin Newsom says the indoor mask mandate may not be lifted on June 15 after all, even though health experts say it will soon be safe to do so.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California is just over one month away from it's official reopening and, according to Governor Newsom, part of that may include a shift in the mask mandate.

He told an LA television station on Tuesday that masks will only be "in those settings that are indoors, only in those massively large settings," but "otherwise we'll make guidance, recommendations, but no mandates and no restrictions for businesses large and small."

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The comment suggested the state may lift the indoor mask mandate at most places as part of the reopening. But today, Gov. Newsom said he wanted to "clarify" what he said, and suggested a change in the indoor mask mandate might not happen by June 15 after all.

"For indoor activities, we will still have, likely have, some mask guidelines and mandates," Newsom said, "But we hope sooner than later, that those will be lifted as well."

Although the exact timing is unclear, UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. George Rutherford said he thinks by mid-June it will be time to rethink indoor masks at many places.

"I think we're in a position now that we can really back away from this pretty quickly," Rutherford told ABC7 News of California. "We're doing really well."

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If the outdoor mask mandate as we know it does change, that would mean places like gyms could allow people back inside without a mask. The owners of MX3 Fitness in San Francisco said that could bring business back.

"It's not easy to do a full hard cardio aerobic workout without the mask on. We're not fooling anyone about that," Dave Karraker told ABC7 News, "And so there's been a lot of people who have just preferred to stay at home and workout at home because they can do it without the masks."

Karraker said, while customers are starting to come back, they're still about 25 to 30% down in business. He said lifting the indoor mask mandate would be a "game changer" for the entire fitness industry.

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Dr. Rutherford says there will still be some indoor places Californians will need to wear masks, such as large events.

"Especially those indoors," he said. "Performing arts, potentially, and indoor sports like hockey and basketball."

But a trip to the grocery store? You soon might be able to leave the mask at home.

"I could easily see that five weeks from now, so June 15," Dr. Rutherford said, "Where we would be in a place that's very comfortable to get rid of the masks."

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