Starting next Tuesday, vaccinated Californians will be able to go mask-free in most settings.

As the state gears up to reopen businesses without capacity restrictions on June 15th, it will align its mask guidance with that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those changes will pave the way for fully vaccinated residents to cast off their face coverings during the majority of everyday activities, while those who are not vaccinated must keep wearing them indoors.

Last month, the state held back on following the sudden changes to CDC guidance even as states like Oregon, Connecticut, Washington and others adopted them right away, opting instead to wait until the planned mid-June reopening.

In a conference call Wednesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state wanted to “take a little bit of time to assess that guidance” before moving ahead with it.

“Today, the message is updating our guidance … to align with the CDC and provide high-risk settings or certain settings in which they’ll be recommended,” Ghaly said.

Beginning next Tuesday, fully vaccinated Californians will not need to wear masks except in the following settings:

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  • Public transportation, including airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways and taxis, as well as transportation hubs such as subway stations
  • Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings. Ghaly noted “this may change based off our ongoing conversations with the CDC.”
  • Health care settings, including long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers
  • Businesses that choose to require masks for all patrons

Unvaccinated individuals, however, must continue to wear masks in indoor public settings and businesses, such as retail stores, theaters, restaurants and other state and local government offices serving the public.

Although businesses may use the “honor system” to allow vaccinated patrons to shop or eat mask-free, they may also choose to verify that customers have been vaccinated, Ghaly said, or simply continue to require masks for everyone.

The health official acknowledged that “all verification systems are fraught with some challenges” and emphasized that businesses can decide for themselves how they want to enforce mask-wearing. No Californian, however, may be turned away from a business or activity for wearing a mask.

“Some business owners very well may decide that the honor system, as you’re calling it, is not sufficient,” Ghaly said.

The new guidance arrived hours before the board for workplace safety regulator Cal/OSHA will meet to reconsider its masking rules for workplaces, which as written now will conflict with California’s plan to follow CDC rules. Earlier on Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom urged the regulator to revise its latest standard requiring that vaccinated workers wear masks while in the same room as unvaccinated coworkers.

Still, Ghaly clarified that the “overriding or primary guidance” for workplaces will continue to be the whatever standards Cal/OSHA decides.

“Workplaces and employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA standards,” he said. “That does not change.”