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State’s indoor mask mandate to expire for most vaccinated residents

Gavin Newsom puts his mask back on after getting tested for COVID-19 at Native American Health Center in Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 22, 2021. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

CALIFORNIA — California will roll back its mask requirement next week for vaccinated residents in most indoor spaces, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

The state implemented the mandate in mid-December as COVID-19 cases began to spike due to the highly infectious omicron variant, requiring residents to wear a mask in public indoor settings regardless of their vaccination status.

The mandate, which had an initial end date of Jan. 15, was then extended to Feb. 15. Newsom announced in a Twitter post that the state will let the mask requirement lapse on Feb. 15 as planned.

“(California’s) case rate has decreased by 65 percent since our omicron peak,” Newsom said. “Our hospitalizations have stabilized across the state.”

California is currently confirming an average of 103.7 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.

At the peak of the omicron surge, the state was reporting nearly 300 new cases per 100,000 residents. That figure was also likely an undercount, public health officials have argued, because of the availability of at-home tests, results of which are not included among official case counts.

Mask requirements are expected to remain in place for indoor public settings like grocery stores across much of the Bay Area once the statewide mandate expires.

In addition, masks will still be required for all residents in health care facilities, homeless shelters and public transit.

Unvaccinated residents will still be required to wear a mask indoors at all times, as they have been since the state lifted most of its COVID-related restrictions last June.

Prior to Dec. 15, when the mandate began, roughly half of California residents lived in a county that did not have a blanket requirement to wear a mask indoors.

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