A face-covering sign will be posted in Grand Central Market on July 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images
California will issue a nationwide mask mandate for indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status for the next month, the state’s chief health officer said on Monday.
The mask mandate comes into effect on Wednesday and, according to Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, in effect through January 15.
California health officials also recommend residents returning from trips to the state and tourists visiting to get a Covid test within three to five days of their arrival.
Even the most populous state in the United States requires visitors to events with more than 1,000 participants to pass a negative Covid test if there is no proof of vaccination. Participants must submit the test within one day of the event if it is an antigen test and within two days if it is a PCR test.
“We know that people are tired and hungry for normalcy. To be honest, I am too,” Ghaly told reporters on Monday. “But this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work.”
Ghaly said the mask mandate was needed to reduce Covid infections, which have increased 47% in California since Thanksgiving. The state’s top health official said the highly mutated omicron strain of the virus had unsettled the pandemic.
California reported the first confirmed case of Omicron in the United States on December 1.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has also issued a statewide masking mandate for indoor public spaces unless the company has a mandatory vaccination requirement. The New York mandate went into effect on Monday and will last until January 15.
States are taking different approaches to tackling Covid as hospital admissions increase across the Colorado US government. Jared Polis said Friday that widespread vaccines have made nationwide mask requirements obsolete. He said people are personally responsible for getting vaccinated and the potential health consequences if they don’t.
“The emergency is over” Polis told Colorado Public Radio. “Healthcare [officials] Don’t tell people what to wear; that’s just not their job. “
“Everyone has had more than enough opportunities to get vaccinated,” said Polis. “If you haven’t been vaccinated at this point, it’s really your own damn fault.”
About 66,500 Americans have been hospitalized with Covid-19, up 22% over the past two weeks, according to a seven-day average of the Department of Health’s data through Monday. The Delta variant of Covid is driving the increase in hospital admissions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Omicron variant is now present in more than two dozen countries. White House senior medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, said earlier this month there is “no doubt” that Omicron is spreading into churches across the United States
In the United Kingdom, which reported its first death from Omicron on Monday, the variant is already spreading rapidly. Health Minister Sajid Javid said Omicron now accounts for 20% of infections in England and the variant is spreading at a “phenomenal rate”.
It is unclear whether Omicron generally results in milder or more severe symptoms compared to previous variants. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the rate at which the infection was spreading was worrying.
“I think the idea that this is kind of a milder version of the virus is something we need to put aside and simply recognize the sheer pace at which it is accelerating through the population,” Johnson said Monday.