Californians are once again required to mask up indoors starting Wednesday as the state contends with climbing coronavirus case numbers and concerns about the worrisome new omicron coronavirus variant.
The state is mandating that masks be worn in all indoor public settings — regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status — for the next four weeks, through Jan. 15, 2022.
While several counties have imposed their own mask mandates after California’s “grand reopening” on June 15, about half of the state’s population has lived in counties that do not have mask requirements.
Residents in Los Angeles County have gotten used to masking up indoors thanks to a county-enacted mandate. But others in counties like Orange and San Bernardino haven’t been required to wear masks indoors since the state dropped its previous mask mandate in the summer.
Where are masks required?
Face coverings are now required for everyone in all indoor public settings like gyms, malls, restaurants, and stores.
Masking was already required for unvaccinated workers at high-risk congregate and other health care settings.
Why is California bringing back masks?
State officials said masks will bring an added layer of protection as the omicron variant is increasingly being found across California.
The new measure also comes during the holiday season, when families are more likely to travel and gather in larger numbers.
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And while officials had removed the previous mask mandate amid optimism over how the availability of vaccines will limit the spread of the virus, there remain pockets in the state with low vaccine coverage.
California has also seen an uptick in coronavirus case and hospitalization numbers in recent weeks.
Since Thanksgiving, the state’s seven-day average coronavirus case rate has climbed by 47% and hospitalizations have increased by 14%, according to the California Department of Public Health.