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California to Reinstate Statewide Indoor Mask Mandate

AP Photo/Steven Senne

California health officials announced Monday that the state will again require its residents to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, after it suffered an increase in COVID-19 cases since the Thanksgiving holiday.


The state's Health and Human Services secretary, Mark Ghaly, said that the new universal mask requirement would last one month, starting Dec. 15 and ending Jan. 15.

"We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy. Frankly, I am too," Ghaly said at a news conference Monday. "This is a critical time. We have a tool we know has worked and can work. We are proactively putting this tool of universal indoor masking in place to ensure we get through a time of joy and hope without a darker cloud of despair. Californians have done this before, and we believe we can do it again."

This comes as the omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread to the Golden State, with a reported 18 cases of the variant as of Friday.

Unvaccinated Californians will have to endure additional restrictions, such as having to provide proof of a negative antigen test within 24 hours or a negative PCR test within 48 hours of attending gatherings with more than 1,000 attendees. Previously, the timing for having to provide a negative test after attending a large gathering was 72 hours.

The new mandate will make California one of only eight states to have an indoor masking requirement for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, joining Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Hawaii, New Mexico, Illinois and New York. Connecticut requires indoor masking for the unvaccinated and for everyone in certain settings, such as schools and health care facilities.


California had lifted its statewide mandate over the summer but still allowed individual counties to determine whether to keep the mandate in place. Many of the most populous areas of the state, including Los Angeles County and most of the Bay Area, kept the mandates, meaning the new order will not impact those counties.

Since Thanksgiving, the number of COVID-19 infections in California has increased by 47 percent, moving from 9.6 cases per 100,000 people per day to 14 cases per 100,000 people per day. In the same period, coronavirus hospitalizations have seen a rise of 14 percent.

Nearly 65 percent of the state is currently vaccinated against the coronavirus.


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