Vaccine and Mask Mandate Issued in California County

‘In a sense, we’re going back to the pre-COVID days,’ says San Luis Obispo County’s chief health officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.
Vaccine and Mask Mandate Issued in California County
A health care professional prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient's room in a file photo. (Megan Jelinger/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

A county in California issued a mask and vaccine mandate several days ago, forcing all health care workers to get yearly vaccines or wear a mask at work.

San Luis Obispo County’s chief health officer, Dr. Penny Borenstein, told local news outlet KSBY-TV that the mandate will go into effect starting Nov. 1 and will end April 30, 2024. The rule, which the official described as routine, applies to all hospitals, long-term care facilities, physician offices, and emergency medical service providers.

“This health officer order is something that I’ve been doing for over a decade. In a sense, we’re going back to the pre-COVID days. This year, it seemed natural to add COVID because obviously, that’s a big respiratory disease that we’re dealing with,” Dr. Borenstein said Monday, according to the outlet.
She claimed that her policy is a “really good public health practice to protect the health care workers and protect their patients,” according to the interview. The order (pdf) calls for all health care facilities to implement a policy for staff to get a yearly influenza shot and receive the latest COVID-19 booster.

If the employee doesn’t get vaccinated, they have to then wear a mask, according to the order.

“Quite a few counties have some type of order in place for the respiratory disease system, and some of them are issuing a mask mandate for health care workers regardless of vaccination status. In this county, we decided to go with a vaccination or mask,” Dr. Borenstein told the outlet.

Her order bears some similarity to a rule that was implemented by several Northern California counties more than a week ago. Contra Costa, Sonoma, Alameda, and San Mateo counties in September mandated masking regardless of vaccination status for hospitals and other care facilities, starting Nov. 1 and ending April 30, 2024.

“Each year we see that higher rates of influenza, COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses that can cause severe respiratory infections occur annually between late fall and spring,” Dr. Karen Smith, the Sonoma County interim health officer, said in a statement last month.
In Alameda County, the masking mandate will go into effect for “operators of specified Health Care Facilities” due to COVID-19, RSV, and influenza, according to KRON 4 television. Health care workers are now mandated to wear “high quality” and “well-fitting” masks, officials said around the same time.
And last week, several New Jersey hospitals and care facilities confirmed that mask mandates would be returning. The Carrier Clinic in Montgomery Township, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK University Medical Center in Edison, Ocean University Medical Center in Brick, Old Bridge Medical Center, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Stafford will be under mask mandates, the operator of the facilities told NJ Advance Media.

“This decision was made due to an increase in COVID-19 prevalence in these hospitals, facilities and communities,” Hackensack Meridian Health said in a statement. “The health and safety of our team members and patients has always been and continues to be our number one priority.”

Several hospitals in upstate New York, Massachusetts, and California implemented a mask mandate in August. An elementary school in Maryland also recently made masking a requirement for a kindergarten class due to what officials said was a rise in cases of the virus.

Republican officials have expressed alarm about the return of mandates, with several 2024 GOP presidential candidates speaking out against them. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month said his state wouldn’t reimplement the mandates, and former President Donald Trump released a video on social media calling on Americans to resist the rules, which he described as tyrannical.

Hospitalizations Drop

Despite the mandate issuances, data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that across the United States, hospitalizations were down 3.3 percent for the week ending Sept. 16. The number had been increasing since July, but the CDC’s historical trends suggest that hospitalization numbers are relatively low compared with previous seasonal increases of COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta on April 23, 2020. (Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta on April 23, 2020. (Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images)

In the week before that, hospitalizations dropped some 4.3 percent, the data show.

“Looking at that graph [of] hospitalizations, even though it’s on an upward trend, that’s still lower than it was last year at this time,” Dr. John Segreti, an epidemiologist and the medical director of infection control and prevention at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told ABC News in August. “The fact that the numbers are going up fairly slowly, I think is a good sign.”

And last month, Dr. Shira Doron, chief infection control officer for Tufts Medicine, said that the recent “upswing is not a surge; it’s not even a wave.”

“What we’re seeing is a very gradual and small upward trajectory of cases and hospitalizations, without deaths really going along, which is great news,” the doctor added.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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