With the spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, California will require masks to be worn indoors in all public places.
“We are actively adopting this versatile indoor camouflage tool in public spaces to ensure we squeeze times of joy and hope without a darker cloud of worry and despair,” said Dr. Mark Ghali, secretary of the California Society for Health and Human Rights. Service agency announced on Monday.
“Californians have done this before,” he said. “And we believe we can do it again.”
The power, effective Wednesday, through at least Jan 15, will not change practices in the Bay Area, where counties already require masks in restaurants, businesses and other public places.
But it is likely to have a significant impact in more conservative parts of the state, where mask wearing is less common. About half of Californians live in districts where masks are not required, he said.
Those who disobey may be subject to civil and criminal liability. Local health departments are responsible for implementation.
Currently, some businesses allow vaccinated people to walk without a mask. The new rule does not permit mixing of masked and unmasked people, regardless of vaccine status.
In addition, the state will require unvaccinated people attending “mega-events” – defined as gatherings of more than 1,000 people – to test negative for antigen within one day or negative for PCR within two days. This is shorter than the current three-day requirement.
The state also recommends, though does not require, that travelers who visit or return to California get tested within three to five days of arrival.
The new requirement is in response to the number of cases, which has jumped 47% since Thanksgiving, from 9.6 cases per 100,000 people per day to 14 cases per 100,000 people per day.
“Even a 10% increase in indoor camouflage can significantly reduce the likelihood of infection,” Gali said.
He also expressed concern that the more widespread Omicron variant would gain ground.
Counties of Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Marin, Napa and San Francisco already require internal camouflage in public places.
But in San Joaquin, Stanislav, Placer and many other more conservative and rural districts, there is no ban on the use of closed masks, with the exception of public transport, hospitals, schools and a few other places.