Los Angeles: A reinstated indoor mask mandate has come into effect in California in an effort to prevent an anticipated increase of Covid-19 cases due to gatherings during the year-end holidays and the emergence of the new Omicron variant.
The state, home to around 40 million residents, will now require masks to be worn in all indoor public settings irrespective of vaccine status through January 15, 2022, at which point public health officials will make further recommendations as needed in response to the pandemic, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The Department also updated requirements for attending mega events, like concerts and sporting events, which require either proof of vaccination, a negative antigen COVID-19 test within one day, or a negative PCR test within two days prior to the event, reports Xinhua news agency.
California, once the epicentre of the pandemic in the country, lifted its state-wide mask mandate for vaccinated people on June 15 as the state announced to fully reopen its economy amid dropping cases and vaccine eligibility expansion.
But public health officials are worried in recent weeks to see early signs of resurgence this winter.
Till date, California has reported over 4.89 million Covid-19 cases and 74,704 deaths. There were 3,930 hospitalizations statewide, with 990 of them in intensive care units (ICU).
Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate in California has increased by 47 per cent and hospitalisations by 14 per cent.
“Many of our hospitals are at a tipping point, and even a small winter surge can have serious consequences for our health care system,” Tomas J. Aragon, Director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“By broadening the mask requirement to be universal, we have 30 days to slow the spread of Covid-19 and help prevent the devastating impact on our hospitals, healthcare workers, and patients that we experienced during last winter’s deadly surge,” Aragon noted.
The Department is hosting a week of action to strongly encourage residents to take the steps necessary to slow the spread of Covid-19 during the holidays, including getting vaccinated or boosted if they haven’t already done so and following the state’s new indoor masking and testing requirements.