California Orders New Universal Indoor Mask Mandate, Effective Wednesday

In a surprise move Monday, California state officials announced that the state is instituting a universal indoor mask mandate, effective Wednesday, December 15. The current mandate will run through January 15, 2022.

“We will require universal masking in indoor settings statewide,” said state director of health and human services Dr. Mark Ghaly Ghaly, noting that the order will cover the 58% of tCalifornia’s population not currently under such a mandate.

Ghaly noted on a hastily-arranged conference call with reporters that the state had seen a 47% rise in case rates since Thanksgiving, from 9.6 per 100,000 cases to 14 per 100,000. He also reported that local hospitals are seeing patient levels “significantly above their baseline for this time of year.”

Infections are not spread evenly across the state, he said. “There are some counties that are well above our average (in case rates).” That could mean “serious challenges” to those communities, according to Ghaly. Many of those communities are also among the least vaccinated.

Last winter, the state saw about 28,000 deaths related to Covid between November 2020 and February 2021. The HHS director said officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of that tragedy.

“Frankly with Delta and Omicron and the more rapid replication, we are seeing people who — if they do become severely sick — they are becoming sicker sooner. So we don’t have nearly as much room…as we did last year to make adjustments.”

While Delta still dominates, the state has identified 13 instances of the Omicron variant, including some that appear to be via community transmission — as opposed to those people who were infected abroad before traveling here.

When asked whether the measure was a first step top other increased restrictions Ghaly said, “Absolutely not.


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