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California set to lift mask mandate

The change does not apply to schools, nursing homes, public transit or counties with tougher mandates.

(CN) — California officials announced a significant relaxation of the state's universal indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people beginning Feb. 15.

Those who have not been fully vaccinated for Covid will still have to wear a mask indoors. The relaxation wll not apply to counties with their own mask mandate, like Los Angeles.

"CA’s case rate has decreased by 65% since our omicron peak," Governor Gavin Newsom said on Twitter Monday. "Our hospitalizations have stabilized across the state. Our statewide indoor mask requirement will expire on 2/15. Unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors."

He added: "Get vaccinated. Get boosted."

The state is averaging fewer than 50,000 Covid cases per day, well under its omicron peak of more than 100,000 cases per day three weeks ago. The number of deaths due to Covid remains fairly high, with a seven-day average of more than 180 deaths.

“Omicron has loosened its hold on California, vaccines for children under 5 are around the corner, and access to Covid-19 treatments is improving,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, the director of the California Department of Public Health, in a statement. “With things moving in the right direction, we are making responsible modifications to Covid-19 prevention measures, while also continuing to develop a longer-term action plan for the state.”

A press release from the Department of Public Health said officials are working to update the state's policy on masking in public schools, which has been especially controversial and has led to numerous lawsuits.

Even after the changes go into effect Feb. 15, face coverings will still be mandatory in certain places including as nursing homes and public transit.

Newsom and the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco came under heavy criticism recently after all three were photographed unmasked at Inglewood's SoFi stadium during the NFC championship game. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti was then ridiculed for saying that he only took off his mask while posing for photographs — and held his breath each time.

The incident spurred LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger to call for a reevaluation of the county's mask policy.

"I strongly believe individuals should be allowed to make an informed choice about whether to mask up or not,"
she said in a statement. "I hope state and local health leaders take this into consideration and reevaluate indoor and school masking mandates now."

Supervisor Holly Mitchell said she disagreed with her colleague. "Masking is a modest requirement that works," she said, adding, "The county will implement a thoughtful relaxing of the mask mandate when the surge is over."

LA County officials said last week that the omicron surge would be considered over when Covid hospitalizations drop below 2,500 over seven consecutive days. That could be as soon as next week: there are currently 2,773 people hospitalized with Covid, according to county health officials. But even then, LA County is likely to have tougher mask rules than much of the state.

After the surge is considered over, masking will no longer be required at outdoor "mega events" and outdoor spaces at schools. LA will still require masks to be worn indoors until the transmission rate drops below 10 cases per 100,000; currently the county averages more than 4,000 cases per day, or more than 40 cases per 100,000 people.

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Categories / Health, Regional

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