Two months after it was put in place to handle the Omicron surge, California’s mask mandate falls at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, though face coverings will still be required in many settings, including schools, hospitals and public transit.
San Diego County’s coronavirus numbers continue to make the case that the pandemic is receding. The daily number of new case notifications received by the county health department dipped below 1,000 Saturday for the first time since Dec. 20, coming in at 933 followed by 787 Sunday.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, state secretary of health and human services, said in a news conference Monday that falling trends in the number of new cases and hospitalizations provide confidence that pulling back on the mask mandate makes sense.
But, he added that while it’s no longer a requirement, wearing a mask indoors, especially in crowded locations, is a good idea given that transmission rates remain high relative to previous quiet periods such as the spring and early summer of 2021.
“We are still strongly recommending that people wear them in public indoor places,” Ghaly said.
The public, though, has largely been ignoring indoor masking rules in many locations, especially restaurants. Generally, enforcement of mask requirements outside health care and education has recently been nearly nonexistent. The point was illustrated at SoFi Stadium Sunday when cameras panning more than 70,000 Superbowl attendees showed that the vast majority had their faces uncovered.
Maintaining the mandate in schools, but ignoring it in stadiums, drew continued fire from many in the public Monday. Ghaly did not address the dichotomy when asked to comment Monday.
He did stress that the virus continues to exact a toll even though case rates have fallen more than 70 percent over the past month.
“People have lost their lives to this nasty virus, and that continues,” Ghaly said. “That said, we understand a little better where it’s headed, and what’s happened over the last many weeks, and that is why we are prepared, after tomorrow, to allow the guidance for public indoor settings.”
By far the biggest continuing mask requirement remains in K-12 schools. Ghaly said that masks will continue to be required in schools, though a reassessment is set for Feb. 28.
Dr. Davey Smith, chief of infectious disease research at UC San Diego, said he trusts the state’s public health apparatus to react to trends in disease data by adjusting the responses it asks for, and sometimes demands, from the public.
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