California reinstating statewide indoor mask mandate on Wednesday

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With COVID-19 cases up 47 percent across the state since Thanksgiving, on top of the uncertainty posed by the Omicron variant, California announced Monday that it will reinstate a universal indoor mask mandate effective Wednesday.

All residents statewide will be required to mask up in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status beginning Dec. 15 and lasting through Jan. 15.

A previous statewide mask mandate was dropped six months ago, though a number of counties — including Yolo — later reinstated local mandates as cases surged due to the Delta variant.

The new state mandate won’t change anything for Yolo County residents who must already wear masks in indoor public settings, but it will mark a change for about half of the state’s residents who live in counties where masks are not currently required indoors.

In announcing the mandate, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services, acknowledged that “people are tired and hungry for normalcy.

“Frankly, I am, too,” he added.

“That said, this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work.”

“We are proactively putting this tool of universal indoor masking in public settings in place to ensure we get through a time of joy and hope without a darker cloud of concern and despair,” Ghaly said, adding that, “Californians have done this before and we, of course, believe we can do it again.”

Ghaly also announced two other changes effective this week aimed at heading off a surge in cases and hospitalizations:

* Individuals attending mega events with more than 1,000 attendees who do not show proof of vaccination must show proof of a negative test taken within one day if it is an antigen test and two days if it is a PCR test. That marks a change from the previous interval of 72 hours.

* Travelers who visit or return to California are now recommended to get tested within three to five days of their arrival.

In announcing the mask mandate and other changes, Ghaly laid out his concerns about what may be coming as the state’s case rate increased from 9.6 cases per 100,000 residents to 14 just since Thanksgiving.

Likewise, Ghaly said, “we see other states in the United States struggle with overwhelmed hospitals and high numbers of cases.”

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