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COVID-19: Back To It – Mask Mandate in Effect... AGAIN


Last updated 12/21/2021 at 2:25pm

Nearly six months ago, we were finding the way back to normality. As vaccines were being administered, restrictions loosened, all felt right again, and the coronavirus was a thing of the past. However, headlines are beginning to look similar once again.

Yes, the mask mandate is once again back in California and will remain in place for at least a month until Jan. 15.

The mask mandate, effective on Dec. 15, was put in place after a sharp spike in COVID-19 numbers after the Thanksgiving holiday. And with the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron continuing to loom, the mask mandate was brought back.

Masks are mandatory in all indoor public settings across the state, regardless of vaccination status.

The mandate mirrors a requirement already in effect for many counties across the state.

The state will also toughen the restriction for unvaccinated people who attend indoor “mega-events” of 1,000 people or more, requiring them to receive a negative COVID-19 test within one day of the event if it’s a rapid antigen test or within two days for a PCR test. The current rules require a test within 72 hours of the event. State officials will also recommend, but not require, that people who travel to California or return to the state after traveling be tested for COVID-19 within three to five days.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the rule change is being prompted by a 47% increase in COVID-19 case rates across the state since Thanksgiving. He said over that time, the statewide rate of daily new cases went from 9.6 per 100,000 residents to more than 14 per 100,000.

“As we look at the evidence that masks do make a difference, even a 10% increase in indoor masking can reduce case transmission significantly,” he said.

Under current state guidelines, masks are only required indoors at public transit facilities such as airports, healthcare settings, adult and senior care facilities, schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers.

The state already technically requires mask-wearing for unvaccinated people at indoor public facilities, but the new rule will impact everyone regardless of vaccine status.

Among the indoor public spaces affected are retail stores, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers and government offices that serve the public.

Face coverings are also required for everyone in these settings, whether you’ve been vaccinated or not:

On public transit, such as buses, trains, airplanes, ferries, taxis and ride services, and in the areas that serve those, such as airports, transit stations, etc.

Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings

Adult and senior care facilities

Healthcare settings, including long-term care facilities

Detention facilities

Homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers

A day after the mandate went into effect, the state revised its rule. California now says any county that had already issued an order allowing vaccinated individuals to go maskless in certain indoor businesses can continue to do so.

Gyms, offices and churches in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, and Sonoma counties will be allowed to let members continue without face coverings.

But for counties that had not already relaxed masking rules, masks are a must in all indoor public spaces.

Even with this mandate, Coronado and El Cajon have come out to say that they will not be enforcing the mandate.

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey believes the state should provide the resources to enforce the mandate. He believes it is not a good use of police resources to have an officer standing outside of a restaurant to make sure masks are being worn.

Both mayors also cited that businesses have suffered enough damage due to the pandemic.

Cases in San Diego County continues to rise, and the new variant is being identified in more and more people.

“We expected that the Omicron variant would make its way to San Diego, and it has,” said Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, adding that more cases are expected. “We are continuing to monitor for the Omicron variant and will report any other cases to the public when they are identified.”

Cases of the coronavirus have been increasing recently in San Diego and elsewhere. The number of new infections reported in the past week — 5,418 — far exceeds the previous week’s 2,955. Authorities have laid the blame for the spike on Thanksgiving gatherings, however, not the omicron variant.

On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization designated variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named omicron. The decision was based on the evidence that it has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves. For example, on it’s rate of spread or the severity of illness it causes.

However, many people are wondering how effective are the vaccines, especially against the new omicron variant?

Given omicron’s plentiful mutations, it could theoretically evade vaccine-induced protection, and some experts anticipate a drop in vaccine effectiveness. Researchers will likely have answers within the next week or so after testing antibodies from people who are vaccinated, and seeing if they are capable of neutralizing the virus.

Even if omicron can evade those antibodies, the vaccines are still likely to protect against severe illness, BioNTech CEO and co-founder Dr. Ugur Sahin told the Wall Street Journal. That’s because omicron will “hardly be able to completely evade T-cells,” which are the body’s second line of defense against the virus, Sahin said.

Pfizer announced that people who had been fully vaccinated and received its booster shots should have at least some protection against omicron.

Still, President Joe Biden instructed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use the “fastest process available without cutting any corners,” to make omicron-specific vaccines available, if necessary.

Moderna says it’s already working on one, which could be ready to ship by early 2022, if necessary. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that his company is waiting for more data before acting – but could have its version ready in 100 days.

Non-vaccine treatments could also be a mixed bag. Pfizer’s COVID antiviral pill, Paxlovid – which has yet to be approved by the FDA – might work against variants like omicron, because it’s designed to address spike mutations, Bourla said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House chief medical advisor said the primary two-dose vaccination series from Pfizer and BioNTech is significantly compromised by omicron.

However, two shots still offer considerable protection against severe disease, he said. However, two doses are still 70% effective at preventing hospitalization in omicron patients in South Africa, Fauci said.

In a move criticized by business groups and hailed by labor advocates, California’s workplace regulators extended the state’s coronavirus pandemic regulations into next year with revisions that employers said could worsen the state’s severe labor shortage.

The revised rules require that vaccinated, but asymptomatic workers who come in close contact with someone infected with the virus must wear masks and stay 6 feet (1.8 meters) from others for 14 days if they return to work.

The current rules allow those employees to keep working without restrictions unless they show symptoms – under the assumption that the vaccine generally will protect them.

An unvaccinated worker who comes in close contact with someone infected with the virus still must quarantine for two weeks.

The new rules that take effect Jan. 14 for three months were approved by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. The seven-member safety board is the policy-making arm of what is known as Cal/OSHA. It adopted the revised rules without discussion on a 6 – 1 vote.

However, there is much arguments about the new rules, especially for small businesses, retailers and restaurants.

In the sports world, the coronavirus is taking wind with the increase in cases, spurring fines and delays.

More teams in the National Football League have placed dozens of its players on the COVID-19 list, and facilities in the National Basketball League have shut down practices for the time being.

The NFL alone had more than 70 players test positive for COVID cases in the week of Dec. 13, and is on pace to surpass the 72 positive cases the league reported on Dec. 2 for the period between Nov. 14 and Nov. 27. Seven teams are now in enhanced mitigation protocols, which require more testing and stricter prevention rules. Although leagues are unlikely to press the panic button like in March 2020, when the NBA led the complete suspension of sports games, the rise of the omicron variant is causing concern.

The NFL is tightening up its guidelines as it nears the end of its regular season and prepares for its first playoff rounds before the Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.

An NFL memo sent out stated tier 1 and tier 2 team staff, including coaches and front office personnel, must receive the booster shot by Dec. 27.

Meanwhile, NBA commissioner Adam Silver predicted the league would see additional positive cases when he spoke at a sports conference last October.

NBA protocols mandate players sit out at least 10 days or produce two negative tests in 24 hours before returning.

But there’s no indication if the NBA is ready to consider more extreme measures, like suspending courtside and lower bowl ticket sales. That would eliminate proximity to players and staff, which could help reduce the risk of COVID transmission, but would hurt attendance revenue and deal a blow to the league’s $10 billion projection.

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