California to reimpose statewide mask mandate
California will reimpose a statewide indoor mask mandate on Wednesday amid an increase in COVID-19 infections.
Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, said the mandate will last a month, from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15.
In a statement, Ghaly said the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 47 percent and hospitalizations have increased by 14 percent since Thanksgiving.
The statewide indoor mask mandate was lifted over the summer, but Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) left it up to individual counties whether to keep the mandate in place, as well as what metrics would be needed to lift it.
Many of the most populous areas of the state, including Los Angeles County and most of the Bay Area, never lifted their mandates. The new order will impact the counties that do not currently have a mandate, which contain about half the state’s population.
It’s unclear whether the mandate will be enforced, and Ghaly said during a briefing that he expects some places to have stronger enforcement than others.
“We know that there’s going to be people who don’t necessarily agree with this, who are tired, who aren’t going to mask,” he said. “We hope that those are few and far between, that most people see the purpose of doing this over the next month as something to protect them and their communities during a very tough time.”
The order comes as the omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly around the U.S. and the world.
New cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all occurring primarily among the unvaccinated, and nearly 78 percent of the eligible population in California has been at least partially vaccinated with one dose.
Additionally, the state updated its requirements for attending large events, such concerts and sports, with more than 1,000 people.
Anyone who can’t show proof of vaccination will need to show a negative antigen COVID-19 test within 24 hours, or a negative PCR test within 48 hours of the event. The current rule allows any test within the previous 72 hours.
Updated at 6:32 p.m.
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