California institutes universal mask requirement in face of rising Covid numbers

Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes is flanked by (from left) Supervisors Brian Pacheco, Steve Brandau and Nathan Magsig, along with Lee Ann Eager with the Fresno EDC, at an October 2020 news conference. Photo by Frank Lopez

The Blueprint for a Safer Economy — and its business shutdowns — might be in the rear view, but the state is cracking down in other ways to keep Covid-19 cases under control.

California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly introduced three new requirements for California residents Monday.

Starting this Wednesday, there will be a statewide universal masking requirement in all public settings. The second requirement will ask attendees for events greater than 1,000-person capacity to show proof of vaccination or show a negative test result within a day, rather than 72 hours. There is also a recommendation for travelers to show a negative test result before traveling. 

The mandate is in effect from Dec. 15 to Jan 15, 2022. Prior to today’s announcement, Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare Counties have not had a universal masking mandate.

The changes come as Omicron continues to spread rapidly, and as health officials watch for increased hospitalizations because of both the Delta and Omicron variants. Ghaly said that counties with high hospitalization rates mirror a low vaccination rate.

“Since Thanksgiving we have seen a 47% increase in case rates across California,” said Ghaly.

The state is nearing 75,000 deaths from Covid.

Ghaly said that many, including himself, are hungry for normalcy and believes these new requirements will provide a way to keep “normal” on the horizon. 

Take-home tests, available for purchase through pharmacies, are acceptable for proof of a negative test result. Enforcement for universal masking will fall on business owners. Patrons are expected to comply.

Ghaly admitted the public is feeling pandemic fatigue.

“We have work to do,” he said.

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