The state of California will once again require that all residents — regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status — wear masks indoors.
In a news release, California Health and Human Services announced that the mandate will apply to all indoor settings beginning on Wednesday, Dec. 15, and last at least until Jan. 15, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases since Thanksgiving.
Some counties, including San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Napa in the Bay Area, as well as Los Angeles County, have been enforcing an indoor mask mandate since the summer. Marin County recently dropped its mask mandate and announced that given its high vaccination rate, would no longer use case rates to set COVID-19 policy, and instead rely on hospitalization data.
“We think it’s important at this stage to reorient what we’re most concerned about, which is severe illness and death,” said Marin County health officer Dr. Matt Willis. “Cases are increasingly mild, so we have shifted towards a more benign form of COVID-19 infection and disease based on vaccination rates.”
An SFGATE analysis from the summer showed that in California counties with similar vaccination rates, mask mandates appeared to have had minimal impact on the course of the delta variant-driven wave.
The state of California currently has 64.8% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The new mask mandate will override any exemptions that counties built into their mask policies.
“To align with California’s requirements, San Francisco is suspending its current mask exemption for stable cohorts of 100% vaccinated individuals (which includes certain work settings, gyms, and other select locations) until the state order is lifted, currently set for January 15,” the city’s department of public health wrote in a statement.
In addition to the new mask mandate, the state also announced that unvaccinated individuals attending “mega-events” with more than 1,000 people must produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of the event if using an antigen test, and 24 to 48 hours of the event if using a PCR test.