For individuals gathering with people who do not live in the same household, masks should be worn in homes regardless of the COVID-19 vaccination status, according to the county on Monday.
“Masks must be worn in private settings, including your home, when non-household members are present,” the county wrote, without saying how it would enforce masking inside private homes.
The mandate will also apply to public settings including offices and grocery stores. Businesses will be required to post signs about the mask requirement, the county said.
“Unfortunately, a potential winter surge appears to be a significant threat to the health and safety of our community,” said Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel, without providing data for why a “winter surge” will occur.
Citing individuals’ desire to spend more time “with those we love during the holidays, it is important to protect vulnerable friends and family members by wearing a mask indoors,” Newel said.
Santa Cruz County lifted its mask mandate on Sept. 29 as case numbers dropped and vaccine uptake increased. Officials, however, told local media that COVID-19 cases have surged 29 percent in the past two weeks.
According to data provided by Santa Cruz County, which is located south of the San Francisco Bay Area, about 72 percent of residents have received at least one vaccine dose while 67 percent are fully vaccinated.
Newel said the mask requirement will remain in effect indefinitely until it is amended, rescinded, or superseded.
“Those are the three main things to watch but our big concern is also saving lives so we will be watching deaths and, additionally, the impacts on our health care system,” Newel told local media. “There has been quite an increase in hospitalizations in the last week to two weeks.”
She also said that health officials will monitor cases, hospitalizations, and other data.
“We just don’t know what lies ahead. We don’t know enough about this virus; about the variant; about data tracking and monitoring to really know at this point when it’s going to be safe to lift the order.” Newel told KSBW.
Data from the CDC suggests that California’s COVID-19 transmission rate is currently higher than states in the Southeast United States. The seven-case average in California as of Nov. 21 is more than double that of Florida, which has statewide orders banning masking or vaccine mandates.
The Epoch Times has contacted Santa Cruz County for additional comment.