(The Center Square) – California will implement a statewide universal masking mandate starting Wednesday as COVID-19 case rates remain on the rise in various regions across the state, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Monday.
The indoor mask mandate will apply statewide and remain in effect until Jan. 15, Ghaly told reporters Monday. Since Thanksgiving, the state has seen a 47% increase in case rates, up from roughly 9.6 cases per 100,000 daily to over 14 cases per 100,000 per day, Ghaly said.
“We are proactively putting this tool of universal indoor masking in public settings in place to ensure we get through a time of joy and hope without a darker cloud of concern and despair,” Ghaly said. “Californians have done this before, and we, of course, believe we can do it again.”
The new mask mandate will impact about 50% of the state’s population who are not currently under a county-level mask mandate, Ghaly said. Some parts of the state, such as cities in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, reinstated indoor mask mandates over the summer, shortly after the state lifted many COVID-19 restrictions on June 15.
In addition to universal indoor masking, the state will require attendees of mega-events of over 1,000 people to show proof of vaccination or submit a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours if its an antigen test and 48 hours if it is a PCR test, lowering the previous 72 hour interval, Ghaly announced.
Travelers to California are also encouraged to get a COVID-19 test within three to five days of arrival, Ghaly said Monday.
Monday’s announcement comes just weeks before many residents will gather together – likely indoors – for the holidays. Ghaly said Monday that there is no new guidance directing Californians on what they can or cannot do during the holidays, but recommended that residents take precautions, such as getting vaccinated, getting tested or trying to gather where there is proper ventilation, to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
“There is nothing here telling or directing people on how to hold their own holiday gathering,” Ghaly said. “I think now is an important time to determine to get vaccinated if you haven't already, or get that second dose and get that added protection or, frankly, get the booster.”
Ghaly also noted Monday that case rates are not universally rising across the state, but rather, in places where vaccination rates are lower. The secretary specifically noted that cases and hospitalizations are rising in parts of Southern California, Riverside and San Bernardino, as well as in Inyo County, the Central Valley and the San Joaquin Valley.