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California mandates masks again

Karen Himmaugh rings up Barbara Bunker's groceries at Piazza's Fine Foods in Palo Alto on April 9, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Starting Wednesday, Californians will once again be required to wear masks indoors in public places regardless of vaccination status, state health officials announced Monday.

The renewed masking requirement follows a 47% increase in COVID-19 case rates since the Thanksgiving holiday and the arrival of new variant, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health secretary.

The mask mandate will run through Jan. 15 and is specific to public settings, not private gatherings. Nevertheless, health officials recommend people get tested ahead of holiday gatherings and consider better ventilation by opening windows or convening outdoors when possible.

The mandate will mainly affect about 50% of the state population that lives in counties that currently don't have their own mask mandate, Ghaly said. Los Angeles and several Bay Area counties already have mask mandates for public settings in place.

Along with renewed mask rules, the state will also require that attendees at mega events — those of 1,000 people or more — who are unvaccinated show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day, if an antigen test, or two days for PCR tests. The state is also recommending that travelers get tested before and after trips.

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The first statewide mandate was imposed in 2020 and lifted last June.

After the state's June 15 reopening, vaccinated people were allowed to return to grocery stores, retail and other public settings without a mask — at least under state rules. People who were not vaccinated still had to adhere to indoor masking. Telling the difference, however, was tricky: Ghaly acknowledged Monday that throughout the pandemic enforcement of these rules has been a challenge.

Ghaly said state officials are not considering any further restrictions or capacity limits on businesses at this time. "Is this the first step along the course we're familiar with…including closures? Absolutely not."

That's because, he said, despite concerns of the new omicron variant and rising case rates, the state has effective tools at hand: vaccines and masks.

And while it can be discouraging to be talking about a universal mask mandate once again, Shira Shafir, an epidemiology professor at UCLA, said people must continue relying on masking, good ventilation and testing.

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The type of mask makes a difference, Shafir said. With an improving supply chain, people should opt for surgical and N95 masks and ensure they fit well over the nose and under the chin.

She described California's current situation as a tale of two states: On one hand, some counties have relaxed masking and low vaccine uptake, and on the other, there are counties with stronger vaccination rates where people have been masking continuously indoors, even after the state lifted its own requirements. In those counties "you have a slower increase of new cases. Not none, but there is less," Shafir said.

The state's seven-day average case rate as of Monday stood at 14.1 new cases per 100,000 people. On the high end, Riverside and San Diego counties reported rates of 19.8, San Bernardino County is at 22.7, Inyo County 29.4 and Mono County 50.1, according to state data.

On the lower end, Los Angeles reported 13.3 new cases per 100,000 and San Francisco and Alameda counties reported rates of 8.5 and 7.6, respectively.

To date, 74,685 Californians have died from COVID-19.

Email Ana B. Ibarra at [email protected]

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics. Read more state news from CalMatters here.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

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California mandates masks again

by Ana B. Ibarra / CalMatters

Uploaded: Mon, Dec 13, 2021, 3:18 pm
Updated: Mon, Dec 13, 2021, 5:27 pm

Starting Wednesday, Californians will once again be required to wear masks indoors in public places regardless of vaccination status, state health officials announced Monday.

The renewed masking requirement follows a 47% increase in COVID-19 case rates since the Thanksgiving holiday and the arrival of new variant, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health secretary.

The mask mandate will run through Jan. 15 and is specific to public settings, not private gatherings. Nevertheless, health officials recommend people get tested ahead of holiday gatherings and consider better ventilation by opening windows or convening outdoors when possible.

The mandate will mainly affect about 50% of the state population that lives in counties that currently don't have their own mask mandate, Ghaly said. Los Angeles and several Bay Area counties already have mask mandates for public settings in place.

Along with renewed mask rules, the state will also require that attendees at mega events — those of 1,000 people or more — who are unvaccinated show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day, if an antigen test, or two days for PCR tests. The state is also recommending that travelers get tested before and after trips.

The first statewide mandate was imposed in 2020 and lifted last June.

After the state's June 15 reopening, vaccinated people were allowed to return to grocery stores, retail and other public settings without a mask — at least under state rules. People who were not vaccinated still had to adhere to indoor masking. Telling the difference, however, was tricky: Ghaly acknowledged Monday that throughout the pandemic enforcement of these rules has been a challenge.

Ghaly said state officials are not considering any further restrictions or capacity limits on businesses at this time. "Is this the first step along the course we're familiar with…including closures? Absolutely not."

That's because, he said, despite concerns of the new omicron variant and rising case rates, the state has effective tools at hand: vaccines and masks.

And while it can be discouraging to be talking about a universal mask mandate once again, Shira Shafir, an epidemiology professor at UCLA, said people must continue relying on masking, good ventilation and testing.

The type of mask makes a difference, Shafir said. With an improving supply chain, people should opt for surgical and N95 masks and ensure they fit well over the nose and under the chin.

She described California's current situation as a tale of two states: On one hand, some counties have relaxed masking and low vaccine uptake, and on the other, there are counties with stronger vaccination rates where people have been masking continuously indoors, even after the state lifted its own requirements. In those counties "you have a slower increase of new cases. Not none, but there is less," Shafir said.

The state's seven-day average case rate as of Monday stood at 14.1 new cases per 100,000 people. On the high end, Riverside and San Diego counties reported rates of 19.8, San Bernardino County is at 22.7, Inyo County 29.4 and Mono County 50.1, according to state data.

On the lower end, Los Angeles reported 13.3 new cases per 100,000 and San Francisco and Alameda counties reported rates of 8.5 and 7.6, respectively.

To date, 74,685 Californians have died from COVID-19.

Email Ana B. Ibarra at [email protected]

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2021 at 5:57 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 13, 2021 at 5:57 pm

So that means we can all stop wearing them Jan 15? No, of course not. We have been under a mandate for months, so what's new here?


Mary
Registered user
College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2021 at 7:45 am
Mary, College Terrace
Registered user
on Dec 14, 2021 at 7:45 am

The "47% increase in COVID-19 case rates since the Thanksgiving holiday" is a little blip in the daily California covid case number, from a very small amount on a per capita basis, to a still very small amount (1 out of every 6,000 Californians). And it's already decreasing again.

Web Link


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2021 at 8:59 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 14, 2021 at 8:59 am

According to tv reports, the numbers are not due to people being tested and reported alone. They are also testing the sewers.

Mild symptoms are unlikely to be tested never mind reported.

We are going to be doing the mask wearing thing and probably the vaccine passport thing for a long time. The ones making money out of this are the testing sites and manufacturers. The home tests alone are very expensive and they are now being advertised everywhere.

This is not just losing freedom but is dangerous. Rainwear with hoods and a mask makes an individual completely anonymous. During the rainstorm recently I felt like a bank robber as I entered businesses to go about my errands.

We cannot be expected to do this indefinitely.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Dec 14, 2021 at 10:07 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Dec 14, 2021 at 10:07 am

I made my decision June 15, and my decision stands. I can't be controlled, and I'm getting away with it. So are a lot of others I see. Have the guts to take a stance, or continue to lose your freedoms. Prior to the vaccines, you probably couldn't get away without a mask. You can now. It's not worth it to say anything to anyone. Vaccines are effective, and if you live in a highly vaccinated county, there's no need to wear a mask. Unless you're wearing an N95 (and most people aren't) your mask is doing very little if anything anyway. Good luck!


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2021 at 11:00 am
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Dec 14, 2021 at 11:00 am

A man from southwestern Michigan wrote a column published in an Eastern news or “magazine” outlet, that I read on the web as it came up on my Apple news:

He said nobody wears masks in southwestern Michigan. He was eloquent and claimed to be liberal. (He claimed his family and region were not, however.)

It’s interesting.

Maybe a middle ground? Maybe high quality mask wearing in airports, on planes and other public transit, in ALL medical and medical-related facilities for forseeable future - and in other indoor settings when a certain (notable) metric of cases/illness/hospitalization is occurring in a county??

Supposedly people go about their lives in many other states quite differently than we do here.
(I haven’t seen, as only trip was to a highly masked OOS city during pandemic.)

- Others’ experiences and opinions?


Leland J.
Registered user
Professorville
on Dec 14, 2021 at 5:26 pm
Leland J. , Professorville
Registered user
on Dec 14, 2021 at 5:26 pm
Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Dec 15, 2021 at 12:05 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Dec 15, 2021 at 12:05 pm

Most Americans aren't wearing masks because most states dropped their mask policies, or they never had one. Less than 10 states are dealing with a mask mandate, and even in California -- 50% of residents weren't under a mask mandate because it was per county.

SF isn't being held to "all of California mandate," just the rest of the state. Does Newsom have any ties to SF?

At this point it should be left up to the mature adult, with the exception of skilled nursing facilities and hospitals. Covid is something we'll have to live with just like the flu and pneumonia. Let the medical professionals handle it, and let the rest of us return to normalcy. If you're not comfortable with the risks, you have your options.

If you're not embarrassed by the way our state is handling Covid, you should be. Have the courage to fight back. This could go on forever.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2021 at 1:48 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Dec 15, 2021 at 1:48 pm

A classic conflating of the issues by the simple. Putting aside that the public is exhausted from this, this isn’t a political issue, or about control, or something to “fight back on,” and who cares about what other states are doing? California is handling the pandemic about as well as can be expected and California is doing much better than so many other states for sure.

Kids are back in school here in our county with little to no outbreaks. Let’s pause and celebrate that for a second! That’s progress. Why is that? It’s because most people here got vaccinated and wear masks. The masks work!

When Ghaly makes a new health order he is looking at data that tells him that masking will help slow the spread and help to not overwhelm the hospital system likely due to the even more transmissible and somewhat vaccine resistant Omicron variant. Early data has shown that people with 2 doses are not as protected without the booster against Omicron. Ghaly is probably also worried about breakthrough cases among those that have not yet gotten the booster. We are not yet in the endemic phase of “living with this like the flu or pneumonia.” He also must manage the entire state of California not just your little home in SCC.

Stop only thinking about yourself and start thinking about your community and wear a mask in public places. [Portion removed.] Think of the hospital workers and about doing your part. [Portion removed.] People hear the word “mandate” and get upset, but so what! We are no longer just in a pandemic. We now all simply live in The Age of The Coronavirus.

Masking and booster shots will be a part of everyone’s life for at least another year. [Portion removed.]


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2021 at 3:39 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 15, 2021 at 3:39 pm

I echo Jennifer.

Omicron is mild symptoms. Our health services are not overwhelmed. Newsom has exempted San Francisco for political reasons, he is targeting counties that ____

This is pure politics at this stage. Anyone who can't see through this by now has their head in the sand. How much longer can we be subject to madness? BTW I can see many more leaving the State for political, business and tax reasons. These are beginning to look like the wise.


CalAveLocal
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2021 at 5:08 pm
CalAveLocal, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Dec 15, 2021 at 5:08 pm

So, in case anyone is wondering why do we have mask mandates in order to protect public health - its people like some of the posters above woh refuse to take a simple precaution which really does not cost them anything at all are dragging out the pandemic. If we had people showing respect for other's lives all along we would not be here. Since March of 2020, I cannot understand people complaining about masks. Its such a not a big deal to wear (unless one has a respiratory condition of course, but in that case one probably should not be in public during respiratory viral pandemic) yet we know (thank you science) that they protect others from getting infected. As far as "not complying with mandates" - ya know, there is a mandate to have a drivers license in order to drive. So?


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Dec 15, 2021 at 5:56 pm
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Dec 15, 2021 at 5:56 pm

Maximum fear and erring on the side of extreme caution is not evidence of superior humanity. It is simple conservatism.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 15, 2021 at 6:34 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Dec 15, 2021 at 6:34 pm

The selfishness in not masking is mind-boggling, esp. since those refusing to mask up are usually so eager to tell others, especially women, what not to do.

Interestingly, one of the top techies at Facebook just this week defended their promulgation of knowingly false Covid / vaccine info because "they're only giving people what they want" so it's their fault if they're misinformed.

Here's a link to one of the many articles about this Web Link


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Dec 15, 2021 at 7:27 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Dec 15, 2021 at 7:27 pm

It IS political, and that's why we're pushing back. 90% of the country isn't masked, but if you want to continue to live in fear, that's your insecurity. And liberal leaders (Newsom, mayor of SF, etc.) showed their true colors by pushing an agenda, and getting caught without masks. They're hypocrites. At least I'm honest, and I will continue to say enough is enough. There's no reason to wear a mask in a highly vaccinated county, and the CDC said "once you're vaccinated, you don't have to wear masks." I have three vaccinations, and I'm mask free.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2021 at 7:52 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Dec 15, 2021 at 7:52 pm

I would advise people that state Omicron is mild, that this all political, and nonsense about living in fear read up on what The World Health Organization stated about the Omicron variant this afternoon.

“Preliminary evidence indicates that COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against infection and transmission linked to the Omicron coronavirus variant, which also carries a higher risk of reinfection, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.”

“We have to be really careful that there isn't a narrative out there that it's just a mild disease," said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's Covid-19 technical lead.”

“Omicron Probably In Most Countries, Spreading At Unprecedented Rate”

Yesterday the CDC reviewed an alarming projection model that stated there could be up to 1 million cases per day in the United States beginning in January. These are the same type of projections Ghaly is looking at when he instituted the mask mandate for one month. It’s not a hardship to do your part in the community and wear a mask in public. Make it all political and go mask free at your own peril. Good luck.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2021 at 8:07 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 21, 2021 at 8:07 am

When government mandates anything for its people, it is a dangerous precedent.

I am saying this not because I won't wear a mask, I do and will continue to do so.

What is very worrying is being mandated to do, wear, anything. This is not like being told to wear a seatbelt, to have a drivers license, or to show ID to a government official. This is supposed to be a temporary measure, but we have not been given any time frame or even a protocol for when this will end. Mandating children to wear a mask in school has as many detrimental effects than the likelihood of protection from them. Mandating that customers in high end stores, banks, or even the local 7 11, is making it easier for criminals. The amount of garbage these masks are making in our streets, our parks, our Baylands, as well as the extra amount of garbage for our landfill, does have to be taken into account. The need to buy and replace these garments does have to be taken into account particularly for those with limited incomes in a time where even basic foods are increasing in price every week.

Anyone who thinks that they are safer because the government is mandating these is just too trusting of government. We have to ask what will government do to us next. Already there is talk of banning unvaccinated people from flying, from going to school, from going to concerts. This is horrific government control. The omicron variant has been called a vaccine variant. Perhaps when we have all suffered this particular variant with mild coldlike symptoms, we will all end up healthy and have herd immunity at last.

This madness must end.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Dec 21, 2021 at 3:47 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Dec 21, 2021 at 3:47 pm

Bystander, Conta Costa County residents are trying to end this madness. A lot of businesses are refusing to ask for vaccine verification (I haven't been asked once). More and more people are ditching the mask. I decided to ditch the mask to stand in solidarity with a close friend who has asthma and can't wear a mask without suffocating, and her doctor won't give her medical clearance.

I did email Newsom to let him know exactly how I feel about masks, and government overreach. He responded to my death penalty email, even though I chose "no reply." I've heard enough...


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