Borrego Sun - Since 1949

End of Mask Mandate


Last updated 2/25/2022 at 2:52pm

As many continue to grapple with mask wearing and vaccinations, it is clear that all would like to move forward for the better.

In a step toward getting back on the path to normalcy, the State of California has ended its indoor mask mandate, for some, on Feb. 15.

However, those who remain unvaccinated will still be required to be masked indoors, and everyone – vaccinated or not – will have to wear masks in higher-risk areas like public transit and nursing homes and other congregate living facilities, officials said.

With coronavirus cases falling fast, California also is lifting a requirement that people produce a negative coronavirus test before visiting hospitals and nursing homes, effective immediately.

California health officials said they are “continuing to work with education, public health and community leaders to update masking requirements at schools to adapt to changing conditions and ensure the safety of kids, teachers, and staff.”

Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration brought back the masking mandate in mid-December as omicron gained momentum and last month extended the requirement through Feb. 15. Local governments can continue their own indoor masking requirements and Los Angeles County’s health officials said they intend to keep theirs in place beyond the state deadline.

State officials also announced that Indoor “mega events” with more than 1,000 people will have to require vaccinations or negative tests for those attending and those who are unvaccinated will be required to wear masks. For outdoor events with more than 10,000 people, there is no vaccination requirement but masks or negative tests are recommended.

Those thresholds increase from the current 500 attendees for indoor and 5,000 attendees for outdoor events. The increased threshold comes after the Super Bowl that drew as many as 100,000 football fans to SoFi Stadium.

Health officials continue emphasizing that those most at risk for the virus are the unvaccinated, and that booster shots in particular provide significant protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

An endemic approach likely means no more masking or vaccination mandates for entering businesses, schools or entertainment venues, and an increased emphasis on antibody, antiviral and other treatment options for those who cannot or will not be vaccinated.

Officials hope that a new approach will be made in dealing with the coronavirus, assuming it is here to stay. The new approach, Governor Newsom said, “allows for the kind of flexibility of thinking that is incumbent upon all of us as it relates to dealing with any endemic, particularly one as stubborn as COVID.”

It will still include quarantines, testing of those who don’t show symptoms and other precautions, but those safeguards will vary based on what he said are more than a dozen “guideposts and measurements” designed to spot new surges and virus variants.

“We’re looking back at the last two years — what worked, what didn’t, what we’ve all learned on the journey we’ve been on together,” Governor Newsom said. That includes reviewing the impact on people and businesses from California’s rules, regulations and requirements.

It also will include a continued emphasis on vaccinations and booster shots that can prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death, he said. About 700,000 Californians got their shots in the last seven days, he said, which is “not insignificant, but it’s not where we want to be.”

San Diego County is adopting the California Department of Public Health’s latest masking guidance and will stop requiring fully-vaccinated people to wear masks in most indoor settings.

“People who are not fully vaccinated are more likely to become infected compared to people who have received all the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including the booster,” County public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. “The vaccines are the best protection there is to prevent people from getting seriously ill, ending in the hospital or, worse, dying.”

San Diego County didn’t specify new local guidance for mega events or hospital and nursing home visits, but said it follows recommendations from the CDPH. It plans to keep indoor mask requirements in place until the county has two straight weeks at or below a “moderate” rate of 50 new cases per 100,000 people and there aren’t any reports of a new, troubling variant circulating, Ferrer said. The current rate is 117 cases per 100,000 people.

The county has more than 400 vaccination sites including pharmacies, medical providers, clinics and county locations. Appointments can be made and sites can be found by calling 833-422-4255 or visiting the MyTurn or websites.

As vaccinations continue to roll out, however, Pfizer-BioNTech has postponed its application to the Food and Drug Administration to expand its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to four years. The move means that vaccines for this age group will not be available in the coming weeks, a setback for parents eager to vaccinate their young children.

Pfizer said in December that two doses didn’t generate a strong enough immune response in its trial of children ages 2 to 4. For young children, Pfizer’s vaccine has a dosage of 3 micrograms. For children ages 5 to 11, the dosage is higher, at 10 micrograms.

President Joe Biden and his administration are making plans for a “less-disruptive phase” of the virus, as frustration grows in easing up on restrictions.

White House Press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that while people are tired of masks and “we understand where the emotions of the country are,” the administration is following the advice of medical experts who rely on scientific evidence.

“That doesn’t move at the speed of politics; it moves at the speed of data,” she said.

State and local leaders, nevertheless, have announced plans to ease virus restrictions in the coming weeks as omicron cases fall, citing the protections offered by vaccines as well as the increased availability of at-home testing kits.

You might be interested in: