This order, which will last a month from December 15 through January 15, will affect roughly half of the state's population – including San Diego and Orange Counties, the Inland Empire, the Central Valley and rural Northern California.
"We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy. Frankly, I am too. That said, this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work," said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
California lifted its statewide mask mandate back in June 15 for those who are vaccinated. However, despite Governor Gavin Newsom heralding the date as the state's grand opening, the county governments still had to impose their own indoor mask mandates as case rates surged with the arrival of new variants.
The new mask mandate will cover everyone else, but state officials remain unclear about how it will be enforced. Ghaly said that the enforcement will likely be stricter in some cases than others, but he still urged Californians to heed the warnings and wear their masks for safety – despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) already admitting that face masks do not provide protection against COVID-19.
On March 5, the CDC published a report saying that face masks don't protect against the disease and may actually worsen infection risk.
Authored by more than a dozen medical doctors, PhD researchers and attorneys, the research found that wearing a mask or not wearing a mask produces roughly the same outcome in terms of the number of cases and deaths associated with COVID-19. (Related: New research shows that wearing a mask will not protect you against the coronavirus.)
Between March 1 and Dec. 31 of last year, 2,313 of America’s 3,142 counties were under a statewide mask mandate. County-by-county data shows a statistically insignificant difference in health outcomes between masked versus unmasked counties.
California is the latest state to issue indoor mask mandate, following Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Hawaii and New York.
There are some Democratic governors who have resisted reinstating mask mandates, including Jared Polis of Colorado. Polis told a public radio last week that "the emergency is over" and that public health officials don't get to tell people what to wear.
State officials in California are afraid to see a repeat of the problems from last winter, when the state averaged over 100 cases per 100,000 people during the surge of the virus, and 20,000 people died during an eight-week period.
Today, the state is only averaging a little more than 14 cases per day per 100,000 people. Still, Ghaly said that hospitals in several counties are struggling with lots of patients – including parts of Southern California such as Riverside, San Bernardino, Mono and Inyo counties. Ghaly also warned that hospitalizations usually increase in the weeks following a jump in new cases.
Ghaly also said that they are proactively putting the indoor masking mandate in effect to avoid a "darker cloud of concern and despair" over the holidays. Further, California is also tightening testing requirements by ordering unvaccinated individuals to have a negative test within one or two days prior to attending indoor events of over 1,000 people.
Travelers, meanwhile, have to get tested upon their return to California within five days of their arrival.
Watch the video below about the return of mask mandates.
Read more news related to the coronavirus pandemic at Pandemic.news.