California to reimpose indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status

On Monday, California’s top health official announced that a statewide mask mandate will be imposed for public indoor establishments regardless of whether an individual has been vaccinated. The new mandate is set to take effect Wednesday and will be in place until January 15. 

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency made the announcement earlier this week. “We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy. Frankly, I am too,” Ghaly said while speaking to reporters on a call. “That said, this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work.”

Ghaly said the reinstated requirement is necessary to curb the spread of new COVID-19 infections as they have risen 47 percent in California since Thursday. 

In addition to masking, the most heavily populated state in the U.S. will also be requiring people attending gatherings over 1,000 people to submit a negative coronavirus test if they cannot show proof of vaccination. The test must be submitted within two days of the event if it is a PCR test and one day if it is an antigen test.

Ghaly also said the omicron variant has been the root of the new wave of uncertainty regarding the pandemic as California reported the first confirmed case of the variant in the U.S. on December 1.

Other states are taking a variety of approaches to the threat of the new variant. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul imposed a statewide mask mandate as well for indoor public places, unless the business already has a vaccine requirement. But Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said on Friday that the widely available vaccines have made a statewide mask mandate unnecessary.

“The emergency is over,” Polis said over Colorado Public Radio. “Public health [officials] don’t get to tell people what to wear; that’s just not their job.”

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