California Extends Indoor Mask Mandate, Citing Rising Omicron Cases

By Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.
January 6, 2022 Updated: January 6, 2022

California health officials have extended the indoor mask mandate at public premises through Feb. 15 as the number of COVID-19 cases spikes following the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

The mandate, which requires masks to be worn regardless of the vaccination status, started on Dec. 15, 2021, and was set to expire on Jan. 15. State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced the extension on Wednesday. Whether the mandate will be removed in February is yet to be decided.

“At that time, we will again re-evaluate the condition across California, our communities, and our health-care delivery settings to make sure that we are taking the latest information into account to determine if there would be another extension, or if we’re prepared to lift that requirement across the state,” Ghaly told reporters. “Omicron is here and it’s here now.”

California recorded 165,889 new cases on Jan. 4, with a seven-day moving average of 51,971—more than a 1,000 percent increase from 4,422 infections on Nov. 26 when the Omicron was designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. The total cases per 100,000 on Jan. 4 stands at 14,436, while it was 12,769 on Nov. 26.

Omicron is spreading at a blistering pace across the country and worldwide, although scientists have pointed to milder symptoms from the variant compared to Delta, with fewer hospitalizations reported.

For the week ending on the first of January, Omicron accounts for more than 95 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the country, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to a recent Danish study of nearly 12,000 households, Omicron is spreading faster than Delta between fully vaccinated individuals, and even faster between those who have received booster shots, demonstrating strong evidence of the variant’s immune evasiveness.

However, the study also discovered that unvaccinated individuals spread the virus more easily than those who are fully vaccinated, while there was reduced transmission between people who received booster shots.

California has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country,with more than 71 percent of the population fully vaccinated with both doses, and almost 50 percent having receiving a booster shot. The state also enforces some of the strictest pandemic-related mandates.

Ghaly also made comments about the type of masks that need to be worn by people during the conference call. He preferred masks “with a good seal,” and added that, “Masks that maybe were really helpful in the beginning are not as helpful today.”

Ghaly added that the number of hospitalizations had gone up significantly in the state although he is not sure whether they are all from COVID-19.

He also said that the Super Bowl LVI, scheduled to be held on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, was going ahead as planned.

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.