Indoor Mask Mandate Back on in California, Regardless of Vaccination Status

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There will be an indoor mask mandate set for Dec. 15 to Jan. 15 across all counties in California. The announcement coincides with the California Department of Public Health’s report that were 18 reported cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant in the state as of Thursday.

California has always required unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors, though discretion has been left to counties to set rules for vaccinated people. When the mandate is in place, people regardless of vaccination status are expected to wear masks indoors.

In a Dec. 13 press conference, Secretary of Health Services Mark Ghaly said the rate of COVID-19 infections in California jumped 47% to 14 cases per 100,000 people since Thanksgiving.

“As we look at the evidence that masks do make a difference, even a 10% increase in indoor masking can reduce case transmission significantly,” he said.

A study from researchers at Stanford Medicine and Yale University, which includes a study of 350,000 people from 600 villages in rural Bangladesh, found that surgical masks reduce COVID-19 spread in community settings.

“Our study is the first randomized controlled trial exploring whether facial masking prevents COVID-19 transmission at the community level,” Ashley Styczynski, one of the lead authors, said in a release about the study. “It’s notable that even though fewer than 50% of the people in the intervention villages wore masks in public places, we still saw a significant risk reduction in symptomatic COVID-19 in these communities, particularly in elderly, more vulnerable people.”

Additional requirements are in place for events with more than 1,000 attendees, like proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test within a day, or negative PCR test within two days of the event. Travelers to California are also recommended to be tested within three to five days of arrival for COVID-19.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll from August of this year suggests large majorities of registered voters either strongly or somewhat support their local governments’ mask mandates across offices (64 percent), indoor dining (61 percent), gyms (62 percent), and entertainment venues (65 percent).

This majority is consistent across demographics of older voters, White voters, Southern voters, Christian denominations, non-college-educated voters, and rural voters, as reported by the Washington Post.

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Jessica Z

Jessica Z

Listening, dancing, writing (in that order, mostly!) -- a product of the internet, always excited to talk about digital/algorithmic agency, fate, and selfhood, and looking for ways to contribute to cultural and artistic community/infrastructure in San Francisco and beyond. Say hi online ( or in the crowd of an upcoming show!

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