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 percent of the state population that lives in counties that currently don’t have their own mask mandate, Ghaly said. Humboldt County, 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 today 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.
To date, 74,685 Californians have died from COVID-19.