Six weeks removed from Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis lifting an indoor mask mandate, a statewide mask mandate was issued this week, effective Dec. 15, requiring everyone to wear masks in all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status for at least one month.
Though the vast majority of businesses in Mill Valley had continued to recommend patrons to wear masks indoors, the statewide policy shift was a direct reflection of the arrival of the new, highly transmissible omicron variant.
Willis urged all Marin residents eligible for a booster shot get one now. He said the county has achieved its goal of having 75% of residents aged 65 or older administered a booster shot and is now focused on getting 75% of all residents aged 55 and older a booster, according to the Marin Independent Journal.
“This mandate is not being written for highly vaccinated communities like Marin, as much as it is for places that are struggling much more with lower vaccinations rates, higher case rates and surging hospitalizations,” Willis told the IJ.
“The criteria for lifting this has not been specified yet, and I think it will be a challenge to navigate,” Willis added. “We’re hoping they will be using a rational approach that takes into account both incidence of the disease and also severity of the disease. It may be a good opportunity for the state to also look to hospitalizations as the indicator rather than case rates.”
As with prior mandates, no one can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.
““We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. “We know that there are going to be people who don’t necessarily agree with this, who are tired, who aren’t going to mask. We hope that those are few and far between. Even a 10% increase in indoor masking can reduce case transmission significantly.”
State health officials also announced Monday that they are now requiring unvaccinated people who attend indoor “mega events” — defined as gatherings of more than 1,000 — to show a negative antigen test within one day or a negative PCR test within two days. This is shorter than the current three-day requirement. The antigen test can be a take-home test sold at pharmacies. The state is recommending, but not requiring, masks for outdoor gatherings of more than 10,000 people.
The state is also recommending, although not requiring, that travelers who are visiting or returning to California be tested within three to five days of their arrival.