DRC's Opposition to the California Department of Public Health's Updated Guidance on Ending Mask Requirements in Health Care Settings

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DRC's Opposition to the California Department of Public Health's Updated Guidance on Ending Mask Requirements in Health Care Settings

This explainer has information about Porterville Developmental Center and what it’s like for the people who live there. It also includes statistics about the race and ethnicity of Porterville residents, their length of stay, and troubling data about how often and for how long DDS staff at Porterville put people in manual and mechanical restraints.

Tomás J. Aragón, M.D., Dr. P.H.
Director and State Public Health Officer
California Department of Public Health 

Mark Ghaly, M.D., M.P.H.
Secretary, California Health and Human Services Agency

Dear Dr. Aragón and Dr. Ghaly: 

Disability Rights California opposes the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) updated guidance ending masking requirements in healthcare, long-term care, and other high-risk settings on April 3, 2023. Removing masking protections is a step backward for health equity in California. The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, seasonal viruses, and other transmissible diseases puts individuals with disabilities at increased risk of severe illness and death. These dangers are particularly high in health care settings where individuals are often seeking treatment for transmissible diseases, thus risk of infection is increased. 

Many individuals with disabilities have complex health care needs, causing them to interact with the medical system more often. In addition, many individuals with disabilities are immunocompromised or otherwise at higher risk for severe illness or death from infection. Further, individuals with disabilities may be unable to wear a mask themselves due to breathing difficulties, seizure disorders, or other symptoms related to their disability. These individuals are reliant on those around them to mask to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission. 

Additionally, people in nursing homes, many of whom have disabilities, have experienced some of the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission, infection, and death throughout the pandemic. 

Ending masking protections will discourage people with disabilities from seeking the health care they need and devalues their lives by unnecessarily placing them at a higher risk in health care settings. Disabled people should be able to access health care settings as safely as possible. Disabled people in nursing homes should be able to limit their exposure to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. That means continuing to require face masks in healthcare settings. This requirement makes the workplace safer for medical professionals, who may have disabilities as well. 


Disability Rights California (DRC) – Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.