Everyone can now go maskless indoors, and other big changes to the city’s health order

The city announced significant changes to its health orders Monday night, just days after another change that allowed those who are vaccinated to go without a mask in most indoor settings.

Beginning today, March 1, the newest changes allow everyone to forgo a mask in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status—though wearing a mask is still strongly recommended by health officials.

Long Beach made the move to align with California’s new masking rules, but there is one significant exception in which Long Beach will be stricter than the state: Bars and nightclubs will still be required to verify vaccination status of patrons, and those who are not vaccinated or can’t show proof will only be allowed to congregate in outdoor areas. Unvaccinated patrons must wear a mask to enter indoor portions of a drinking establishment, and only for the purpose of picking up or making a delivery, providing a service or repair at the facility, getting to the outdoor portion of the bar, using the restroom or picking up and paying for a to-go order, according to the new health order.

Health officials felt this was reasonable given that these establishments are checking identification of those who enter anyway, and bars and nightclubs are considered high-risk settings for the spread of the virus, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Rice Epstein.

For restaurants that provide food and dine-in service—including brewpubs, bars, pubs, craft distilleries and wineries—requiring masks of those inside or proof of vaccination is now optional.

“Such establishments should verify the full vaccination status of patrons 12 years or older who will be seated indoors for food or beverage service,” the health order urges. “Patrons who cannot provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 may be served in outdoor portions of the facility, where the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is less likely when compared to being indoors.”

Per federal regulation, universal masking for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people is still required in other high-risk settings, including public transit, health care facilities, jails and prisons, emergency shelters, cooling centers and homeless shelters.

Schools

The other big change announced Monday pertains to schools and childcare facilities. After Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday morning that the state wouldn’t require kids and staff to wear masks as of March 12, the Long Beach Unified School District and city Health Department announced they would follow that guidance.

On March 12, students, staff and teachers will not be required to wear a mask, “but it is strongly recommended that people wear masks while on school property or performing school activities.”

COVID-19 numbers

Transmission of COVID-19 is still high but has decreased significantly since the height of the omicron surge in December and January.

Despite this, the city still has not met the benchmark that officials set in February, which they said at the time would be required before masking requirements could be lifted.

Officials in Long Beach and Los Angeles County earlier said the seven-day case rate would have to be less than 50 cases per 100,000 residents, per the Centers for Disease Control definition of “moderate” virus transmission.

The most recent data shows Long Beach has a seven-day case rate of 97.5 per 100,000. The city’s positivity rate, however, has sunk to 2.6%, well below the 8% benchmark the city had to meet.

As of Feb. 25, the city has reported 124,286 cases of COVID-19, and 1,220 deaths.

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.
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