Associated Press California Recovers Mask Mandate as Virus Cases Rise
California is getting back a rule calling for people to wear masks indoors. This measure aims to contain a new form of coronavirus when people gather with family and friends in the holidays.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s government announced that the new term will begin on Wednesday and last until January 15. The order comes when the per capita rate of new coronavirus cases in California has increased by 47% in the previous two weeks.
“We know that people are tired and hungry for normality. To be honest, I am,” California Minister of Health and Human Resources Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday. “This means that this is a critical moment when we have a tool that we know worked and can work.”
California lifted its national mandate of masks for people vaccinated on June 15, a date that Newsom announced as the state’s grand reopening. Since then, district governments, which cover about half of the state’s population, have imposed their own inner mask mandates as case rates have increased with new variants.
The new mask mandate will cover everyone else, but state officials weren’t sure Monday how it would apply. Ghaly said law enforcement was likely to be stronger in some places than in others, but urged Californians to heed warnings and wear masks.
“We know that there will be people who don’t necessarily agree, are tired, and won’t ask themselves,” Ghaly said. “We hope that there are few that most people see the purpose of doing this next month as something to protect themselves and their communities at a very difficult time.”
Newsom has issued many other coronavirus mandates, including the demand that state employees, healthcare workers, and soon public school students and teachers should be vaccinated.
The governor can do so because California continues to operate under a declaration of emergency issued by Newsom at the beginning of the pandemic. This declaration of emergency will remain in effect until Newsom repeals it or state legislators vote to end it.
Republican convoy Kevin Kiley, which ran against Newsom as governor during an unsuccessful impeachment earlier this year, has routinely tried and failed to get the democratically dominated legislature to end the state’s declaration of emergency.
“I think people are incredibly frustrated with the idea that these decisions should be made by one person and not because of the way our country and state should work, which means that we all have a say in it and have the freedom to make decisions so that we meet,” Kiley said. “Gavin Newsom is taking action far beyond what another governor or other state has done.”
California joins other states with similar mandates for indoor masks, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Hawaii, and New York. However, other Democratic governors have resisted new restrictions, including Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who last week told Colorado public radio that
“The emergency is over” and that “public health (officials) can’t tell people what to wear.”
State officials fear a repeat of last winter when the state recorded an average of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people during a winter wave of virus monsters when nearly 20,000 people died in an eight-week period.
However, this increase occurred before vaccines were available. Currently, more than 70% of eligible California residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Despite the recent increase in cases, the state records on average just over 14 cases per day per 100,000 people.
Even so, Ghaly said hospitals in several counties with low vaccination rates are still struggling with many patients, including parts of Southern California in Riverside, San Bernardino, Mono, and Inyo counties. Ghaly warned that hospital admissions for coronavirus often increase in the weeks following an increase in new cases.
“We are proactively using this universal indoor masking tool in public settings to ensure we get through a period of joy and hope without a darker cloud of worry and despair,” Ghaly said. “Californians have done it before and, of course, we think we can do it again.”
California is also tightening existing testing requirements by having unvaccinated people who attend indoor events of 1,000 people or more complete a negative test within a day or two, depending on the type of test. The state recommends that travelers visiting or returning to California get tested within five days of arrival.