CA Indoor Mask Mandate Extended to Feb. 17

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

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Don't file those masks away yet. In a matter of weeks, the omicron variant has raked the Golden State, prompting officials Wednesday to extend its indoor mask mandate for yet another month.

The renewed order was set to remain in place until Jan. 15, but Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health secretary, announced that it would be extended until Feb. 17.

"At that time, we will again reevaluate the conditions across California and our communities in our health care delivery to make sure that we are taking the latest information into account to determine if there would be another extension, or if we're prepared to lift that requirement," Ghaly told reporters on Wednesday.

Along with the renewed mandate, Californians will also be urged to make sure they are equipped with a well-fitted mask or one with a filtration system such as an N95 mask.

"Masks that were really helpful in the beginning are not as helpful today," Ghaly said.

The state's top health official also urged residents to get a booster shot as soon as possible, even after a recent infection or possible exposure to the new variant.

"We know that boosters help basically turn up your immunity right away within a couple of days, three days really," Ghaly said.

The news comes as the state reported a positivity rate higher than 15 percent this week, following the holiday season.

"Californians are managing through a significant number of reported cases on a daily basis," Ghaly said, adding that the state is better prepared to handle this particular surge, compared with last winter's devastating winter with COVID-19.

The recent surge also triggered a deficit in testing throughout the U.S. as at-home rapid antigen tests flew off shelves at drug stores over the holiday season.

"We have robust testing in California, we always want more, we're seeking to get more, but that testing is a key part of keeping Californians knowledgeable about who's infected, who's exposed, and helping us keep transmission in a more manageable place," he said.

And while the omicron variant is said to cause a much more mild bout of illness, the variant is still capable of wreaking havoc among those who are most at-risk or those who are unvaccinated, experts have urged.

"We know if you're unvaccinated, omicron will have a significant impact on you and potentially put you in the hospital or even worse," Ghaly said.

This week, 36 percent of California hospitals reported critical staffing shortages. And 40 percent are expecting such shortages.

Some hospitals are reporting as much as one-quarter of their staff out for virus-related reasons, said Kiyomi Burchill, the California Hospital Association’s vice president for policy and leader on pandemic matters.

Staffing shortages come as the state was approaching 51,000 people admitted to hospitals statewide as of Tuesday morning, Ghaly said. About 8,000 of those patients were admitted for COVID-19, he said.

This time last year, the state peaked at about 53,000 total hospitalizations.

"...We are concerned about the level of admission," he said. "We are trying to work through exactly how many patients are there with COVID... and those who are incidentally picked up with COVID, who are hospitalized for another condition. We think that that data is very important."

Also on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed Pfizer booster shots for children 12 and over. The recommendation is likely to trickle into the Golden State this week.

Category: COVID-19, California Mask Mandate