COVID-19: California to mandate masks in indoor public settings until at least Jan. 15; cases go up in Riverside County
California's top health official announced Monday that a universal mask mandate for indoor public settings will go into effect Wednesday through at least Jan. 15.
California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the mask mandate will cover around 50% of the state's population that currently lives in a county that does not have a similar requirement in place already. The Palm Springs City Council recently decided to keep its mask mandate in place through at least Jan. 27.
"We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy, frankly I am too," Ghaly said. "This is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work. We are proactively putting this tool of universal indoor masking in public settings in place to ensure we get through a time of joy and hope without a darker cloud of concern and despair."
Ghaly also announced that attendees of "mega events" — those with more than 1,000 attendees — who don't show vaccination proof will be required to show an antigen test within one day and PCR test within two days of an event. This changes current guidelines, which states testing must be done within 72 hours of an event.
The state is also recommending that travelers who return or visit California get tested within three to five days of their arrival.
There are currently no plans in place currently for closures or restrictions on businesses, Ghaly said. The mandate announced Monday is to "make sure those conversations stay off the table," he added.
Ghaly said the push in new guidance is due to rising cases throughout the state. COVID-19 case rates statewide have jumped 47% since Thanksgiving, from 9.6 cases per 100,000 people per day to 14 cases per 100,000 people per day. The spread and uncertainty of the omicron variant was another factor.
COVID-19 cases in Riverside County are making their way back up as well.
Between Dec. 6 and Friday, the county added 2,412 new COVID-19 cases. That is up 11% from the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, when there were 2,187 cases.
On Friday, the daily case rate was 17.2 per 100,000 — significantly higher than 13.9 per 100,000 on Dec. 6 — but the positivity rate was 6% — slightly down from 6.5% on Dec. 6.
Riverside County has a "substantial" community transmission rate, which is defined as having 50 to 99 cumulative cases per 100,000 in the past seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID Data Tracker.
County spokesperson Jose Arballo Jr. said Riverside County officials "expected numbers to rise" due to Thanksgiving and recent gatherings.
"While there is an uptick, it is far below what we experienced last year at this time," he said. "We are hoping that the numbers begin to level off soon, and that any increase we see through December and January is slight."
The county also added 39 COVID-19-related hospitalizations last week. As of Friday, there were 282 patients, which includes 67 individuals in intensive care, up four from Monday.
There were 27 deaths reported last week, bringing the total to 5,502 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Since Friday, Riverside County added 1,240 cases, the county reported Monday. The case rate was 20.2 per 100,000, and the positivity rate is 5.7%.
As of Monday, a case of the omicron variant has not been reported in Riverside County.
Hospitalizations are at 292 as of Monday, which includes 72 individuals in intensive care.
No new deaths were reported on Monday.
In Riverside County, 57.3% of residents ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated, while another 6.6% are partially vaccinated. There have been 338,531 additional/booster doses administered.
Though cases did not increase in the Coachella Valley, the nine cities reported another 425 new COVID-19 cases in the week ending Monday. That is down 13% compared to 491 cases between Nov. 29 and Dec. 6.
There were also two deaths reported in the last week.
Here is a full breakdown of confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries by city for the week ending Monday:
- Cathedral City: 8,599 confirmed cases (+59), 133 deaths (+0), 8,390 recoveries (+62)
- Coachella: 8,793 confirmed cases (+44), 110 deaths (+0), 8,619 recoveries (+42)
- Desert Hot Springs: 5,339 confirmed cases (+57), 86 deaths (+0), 5,197 recoveries (+59)
- Indian Wells: 268 confirmed cases (+4), 8 deaths (+0), 254 recoveries (+4)
- Indio: 15,000 confirmed cases (+141), 247 deaths (+0), 14,552 recoveries (+105)
- La Quinta: 4,585 confirmed cases (+31), 70 deaths (+0), 4,469 recoveries (+36)
- Palm Desert: 5,288 confirmed cases (+52), 136 deaths (+0), 5,083 recoveries (+63)
- Palm Springs: 4,932 confirmed cases (+22), 138 deaths (+1), 4,739 recoveries (+63)
- Rancho Mirage: 1,472 confirmed cases (+15), 55 deaths (+1), 1,398 recoveries (+12)
The Palm Springs Unified School District reported that 44 students and one staff member have current positive tests for COVID-19. There are seven cases at Palm Springs High School, the most in the district as of Monday.
The Desert Sands Unified School District reported 47 students and seven staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Amelia Earhart Elementary, John Glenn Middle and La Quinta High schools each reported five active cases among students and staff, the most of any school in the district as of Monday.
The Coachella Valley Unified School District on Monday reported a total of 18 active COVID-19 cases among students and one among staff. Desert Mirage High School
reported four cases, according to the district.
Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @ema_sasic.