Mask Mandate Returns to California

Starts Wednesday and runs for one month
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 14, 2021 3:02 AM CST
Mask Mandate Returns to California
Black Friday shoppers wearing face masks wait in line to enter a store at the Citadel Outlets in Commerce, Calif., Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.   (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

California is bringing back a rule requiring people to wear masks indoors, a move aimed at containing a new type of the coronavirus as people gather with family and friends during the holidays. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced the new mandate will start Wednesday and last until Jan. 15, the AP reports. The order comes as the per capita rate of new coronavirus cases in California has jumped 47% in the past two weeks. “We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy. Frankly, I am too,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday. “That said, this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work."

California lifted its statewide mask mandate on June 15 for people who were vaccinated, a date Newsom heralded as the state's grand reopening. But since then, county governments covering about half of the state's population have imposed their own indoor mask mandates as case rates surged with new variants. The new mask mandate will cover everyone else, but state officials on Monday were unclear about how it would be enforced. Ghaly said enforcement would likely be stronger in some places than others, but he urged Californians to heed the warnings and wear masks. State officials are afraid of a repeat of last winter, when the state averaged more than 100 cases per 100,000 people, but that was before vaccines were available. More than 70% of eligible state residents are now fully vaccinated.

California also is tightening existing testing requirements by ordering unvaccinated people attending indoor events of 1,000 people or more to have a negative test within one or two days, depending on the type of test. Newsom has issued lots of other coronavirus mandates, including requiring state employees, health care workers and, soon, public school students and teachers to be vaccinated. The governor can do this because California is still operating under an emergency declaration Newsom issued at the beginning of the pandemic. That emergency declaration will remain in place until either Newsom lifts it or the state Legislature votes to end it. California joins other states with similar indoor mask mandates, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Hawaii and New York.

(Read more California stories.)

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