A statewide indoor mask mandate will be reintroduced in California on Wednesday and last one month, officials in America’s largest state said Monday.
“To ensure that we collectively protect the health and well-being of all Californians; keep schools open for in-person instruction; and allow California’s economy to remain open and thrive, the California Department of Public Health [CDPH] is requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, for the next four weeks (Dec. 15, 2021 through Jan. 15, 2022),” the CDPH said in a statement.
The agency said the order was triggered by a 47% spike in the state’s per capita rate of new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, as well as a 14% rise in hospitalizations.
“Given the current hospital census, which is at or over capacity, even a moderate surge in cases and hospitalizations could materially impact California’s health care delivery system within certain regions of the state,” the CDPH explained.
Experts are concerned that the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant might trigger such a surge.
“We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy. Frankly, I am too,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told the Associated Press on Monday. “That said, this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work.”
On June 15, California lifted its statewide mask mandate for vaccinated people, but some county governments have implemented their own mask mandates as cases soared due to new coronavirus variants, the AP reported. The new mandate now covers everyone else in the state.
On Monday, state officials were unclear about whether the statewide mask mandate will be enforced. Enforcement will likely be stronger in some places than others, according to Ghaly, who urged people to wear masks.
“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,” Ghaly 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.”
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on masks.