California restores mask mandate amid omicron concerns, potential winter COVID surge

‘We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy’

New York Times

California is once again requiring residents to wear masks in indoor public settings everywhere in the state as the omicron variant rapidly spreads and the virus surges just ahead of the holidays.

The mask mandate goes into effect Wednesday and will remain until at least Jan. 15, state officials said Monday.

The state will also require unvaccinated people attending so-called mega events to show proof of a negative coronavirus test result from within a day if it’s an antigen test and from within two days if it’s a PCR test.

“We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy,” said Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Department.

But he said science has shown that even a relatively small increase in indoor masking can help prevent the virus from spreading, which can help keep hospitals from filling.

California will allow counties like San Francisco, which have kept masking in place for most indoor settings since August in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, to maintain their existing health orders around masking, according to San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. That means places with 100% vaccinated cohorts, such as gyms and offices, can maintain their eased masking policies. An update to San Francisco’s main pandemic order in line with these changes will be issued before Wednesday.

On Monday, New York state began requiring people to wear masks indoors in public if proof of full vaccination was not required, a policy which is in effect until at least Jan. 15.

Businesses that do not require patrons to be masked could face civil and criminal penalties, including fines of up to $1,000 per violation. Local health departments are responsible for enforcement.

San Francisco Examiner staff writer Sydney Johnson contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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