By Jose Cruz Roa
SACRAMENTO, CA – COVID-19 cases in California have recently been declining. On Feb. 7, it was reported that case rates have decreased by 65 percent since the Omicron variant peak that occurred a few months ago. Hospitalization rates have also stabilized across California. As COVID-19 cases continue to decrease, California Governor Gavin Newson has announced that the state is set to lift its indoor mask mandate on Feb. 15 for those who are vaccinated.
This new announcement comes nearly two months after the mandate was re-imposed across all 58 counties in California when the highly transmissible Omicron variant rose and sparked new waves of infections.
“Unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors. Get vaccinated. Get boosted,” tweeted Governor Newsom on Twitter.
Although the mask mandate is being lifted, it will still be in place for those who are unvaccinated as well as K-12 students in school. The mask mandate will also still be required in populations at high risk for COVID-19, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Such populations include: nursing homes, public transportation, and other congregate living facilities.
According to state data, it has been reported that as of Feb. 9, more than 82 percent of California’s population has been vaccinated. Additionally, with the release of the booster shot, it was found that the booster is 70 to 75 percent more effective than being double vaxxed.
However, cases still continue to occur every day. Unvaccinated people account for the vast majority of hospitalizations in the past few months as they are 5.9 times more likely to get COVID-19 than people who have received the booster.
“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 state Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón. “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.”
Currently, the plan includes that local governments can still continue their own indoor mask mandates, and some counties have decided to continue them. These counties include Santa Clara and Los Angeles. On Feb. 9, Health Director for Santa Clara county, Dr. Sara Cody, announced at a news conference that the mandate for Santa Clara will not be lifted as the cases in their county are still increasing.
With Santa Clara county facing 1,900 new cases per day, Dr. Cody said, “Currently we are emerging from the Omicron surge and it’s been about a month since the peak and our cases and our case rates are 40 percent of what they were.” ” But we still have very high levels of community transmission,” Cody continued, “still higher than at any other point in the pandemic pre Omicron. And so the risk of being exposed to someone with COVID in our community is still high.”
In Los Angeles County, health officials are waiting until hospitalizations have dropped below 2,500 for seven days and case counts have dropped to 50 new cases per 100,000 people.
“This is not the right time to stop wearing our masks when around others indoors, and in outdoor crowded settings,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
Unless otherwise specified by a specific county, state officials have announced that unvaccinated people at large indoor events with more than 1000 people will be required to continue wearing masks while those who are vaccinated will need a negative COVID-19 test. Additionally, outdoor events with more than 10,000 attendees will not be required to be vaccinated, but a mask and negative COVID-19 test are highly recommended.
As the mask mandate is being lifted in most of California, K-12 students are still required to continue wearing masks at school. California health officials said on Feb. 7 that they are “continuing to work with education, public health and community leaders to update masking requirements at schools to adapt to changing conditions and ensure the safety of kids, teachers, and staff.”