Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the current state indoor mask mandate will not be renewed due to a large drop in COVID-19 cases, with the current mandate set to end on February 15th.
In mid-December of 2021, Governor Newsom reimposed an indoor mask mandate similar to the one that had been in effect in California since COVID-19 started in 2020 until earlier in 2021. While largely protested, Newsom and state health officials said that the return of the mandate was because of safety concerns and to stop the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus. The number of cases spiked last month, but have since gone drastically down. On Monday, only 43,532 new cases were reported, a two month low, with hospitalizations falling by 65% from last month.
With the drastic drop, Governor Newsom decided to not renew the order on Monday, but warned that unvaccinated people will still need to wear their masks indoors.
“NEW: CA’s case rate has decreased by 65% since our Omicron peak,” the Governor tweeted on Monday. “Our hospitalizations have stabilized across the state. Our statewide indoor mask requirement will expire on 2/15. Unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors. Get vaccinated. Get boosted.”
NEW: CA’s case rate has decreased by 65% since our Omicron peak. Our hospitalizations have stabilized across the state.
Our statewide indoor mask requirement will expire on 2/15.
Unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors.
Get vaccinated. Get boosted.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 7, 2022
Despite the state mandate being dropped, some county and city health agencies, which can impose their own mandates, are to keep their indoor mandates in place past the February 15th date. Los Angeles County, as well as several Bay Area Counties, currently have no estimated end date due to persistent high COVID rates and high risk. However those without such local mandates, such as San Diego County, Orange County, and most other counties in the state, indoor mask wearing will no longer be around.
There are certain restrictions though. The removal of the mandate only allows those vaccinated to not wear masks, with all others indoors having to wear them. In many places, such as restaurants, checking for vaccination status will still be in place as a result. Certain locations for high risk, such as public transportation, nursing homes, and some high-traffic businesses, will still have mandatory mask wearing. Indoor and outdoor mega-events will also keep in-place similar rules with masking, COVID test proof and vaccination proof, but will double the amount allowed until those mandates come into place, with 1,000 now in place for large indoor events and 10,000 allowed for large outdoor events.
Public school mask mandates being updated soon
While schools K-12 will also keep a mandate in place for now, health officials announced that new school masking requirements would be released soon, potentially removing the mandate there as well.
“Omicron has loosened its hold on California, vaccines for children under 5 are around the corner and access to COVID-19 treatments is improving,” said California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomas Aragon on Monday “With things moving in the right direction, we are making responsible modifications to COVID-19 prevention measures, while also continuing to develop a longer-term action plan for the state.”
The decision has spurred many local groups where mandates will still be in effect after February 15th to doubling their efforts on Monday to remove them.
“Omicron is quickly vanishing. Really, all of COVID is quickly going,” noted Rodrigo Ortega, a Los Angeles-based mask and PPE supplier to the Globe on Monday. “Every place I go has been ordering less and less and everyone wants this all to be over. The mask mandate is a big part of that, as residents here are just tired of it after two years. State mandate is going, and people I’ve been talking to against the mandate here are just going to hound officials more now. The pressure is on to remove them.”
The state indoor mask mandate is to end on February 15th, following the February 13, 2022 Super Bowl LVI at SoFi stadium in Los Angeles, where 100,000 attendees will be required to wear KN95 masks.
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