Editor’s note: After this story published, Long Beach officials announced the mask mandate would be eased as of Friday, not Saturday. More information is available here.

Hours after a similar announcement from Los Angeles County, Long Beach officials announced on Wednesday that the city’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated people would be lifted in many indoor settings effective Saturday.

The update aligns with the California Department of Public Health guidelines, which eased the statewide indoor masking mandate on Feb. 15.

The new rules outline three options for establishments, businesses and venues in Long Beach:

  • informing all patrons or attendees of the vaccination requirements and allowing them to unmask if they self-attest they’re fully vaccinated
  • verifying vaccination status and requiring anyone who doesn’t provide proof to wear a mask
  • requiring all patrons to wear masks indoors

The relaxed guidelines follow a sharp decline in new cases and hospitalizations in the city and across the state. However, the announcement Wednesday marks a departure from the city’s previous course. Long Beach had previously said it would wait until certain benchmarks were met before easing the mask mandate.

On Feb. 11, city health officials stated mask mandates would be relaxed when the cumulative daily case rate dipped below 50 and the positivity rate fell below 8%. Once those metrics held those levels for two weeks, mandates would be eased, the city stated.

As of Wednesday, the cumulative daily case rate in Long Beach was 159.4 and the positivity rate was 4%. It is not clear for how long the positivity rate has been below 8% because the city recently changed how it reports the figure to the public.

According to city data, nearly 73% of eligible Long Beach residents aged 5 and up are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. However, only 34% of eligible residents have received their booster.

“Vaccines continue to be an important and effective tool against the worst risks associated with COVID-19 including hospitalization and death,” the city stated Wednesday. “In the week ending February 12, fully vaccinated and boosted individuals were more than 13 times less likely to end up hospitalized compared to unvaccinated people.”

The likelihood of dying during that same period was 13 times higher for unvaccinated compared to fully vaccinated residents, according to city health officials.

The city and state’s new masking rules are not as strict as those issued by the county Wednesday, which take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Under the county update, customers are not allowed to self-attest that they’re vaccinated. Rather, the fully vaccinated can forgo masks if all customers and staff have proof of vaccination or if those who only have a negative test result continue wearing masks.

Statewide and in Long Beach, masks will still be still required in numerous spaces regardless of vaccination status:

  • On public transit, including planes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxies and rideshares, as well as transit hubs;
  • K-12 schools and at children centers;
  • Emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers;
  • Health care settings;
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers;
  • Homeless shelters;
  • Long-term care and adult and senior care facilities.

Masks are still mandated for unvaccinated people in all other indoor spaces, including retail, restaurants, theaters and others. Health officials also recommend vulnerable people, including seniors and those with pre-existing conditions, continue to mask regardless of vaccination status.

Superintendent says LBUSD will keep following mask mandates, await new guidance

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.