California will enact a statewide indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status, starting Wednesday until Jan. 15.
The new requirement comes amid concerns about the Omicron variant, which has contributed to a 47 percent increase in daily COVID-19 cases since Thanksgiving, according to California Health and Human Services.
People attending events with 1,000 people or more will be required to show proof of vaccination, a negative antigen test taken within one day or a negative PCR test taken within two days. The state will also recommend that people visiting California get tested three to five days after arrival.
Health and Human Services Sec. Dr. Mark Ghaly did not say how the state will enforce the mandate or whether it will enact penalties for noncompliance, however he encouraged businesses and local governments to implement it to “save lives.”
While an indoor mask mandate has already been in effect in L.A. County since July 17, the new requirement will impact all of California.
“We know that we’re entering into a pretty hard time, that we’re staring to see some of these numbers come up pretty quickly in some communities,” Ghaly said. “[Masking] is the common sense thing to do.”
Ghaly noted that some California counties are well above the state’s average in case rates, posing a serious challenge to those communities, which also tend to have low vaccination rates. As the state aims to steer clear of last winter’s high death toll, Ghaly reported that local hospitals are seeing patient levels “significantly above their baseline for this time of year.”